Hike stunning mountain scenery with our Cordillera Blanca trek.

This fully-supported and extended version of the Santa Cruz walk is one of the best Cordillera Blanca tours on offer.

You are met on arrival in Lima and from thereon in we take care of all the logistics, acclimatisation walks and the trek so that you feel as free as the mountains that await.

Let your thinking become as clear as the air around you, as you leave behind the stresses back home for the wide open spaces of the Cordillera.

 

More about Cordillera Blanca trek

From Lima, take the bus to the bustling Peru highland city of Huaraz, where we undertake a few days’ of acclimatisation walks in this stunning area.

Once adjusted to the clear, high Andean air and altitude, we leave Huaraz to trek the Santa Cruz trek, which has some of the finest views Peru can offer.

Our Cordillera Blanca trek starts with a gradual ascent of the Santa Cruz valley.

We hike up and over the Punta Union pass at 4,750m/15,584ft, by turquoise lakes and close to glaciers clinging to an array of awesome peaks.

Next stop is Vaqueria then the Ulta Valley before heading back to Huaraz, having seen some of the most stunning mountain scenery in South America.

 



Trip Highlights

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  • Join this tour to trek the Cordillera Blanca and hike close to some of Peru's most wonderful mountain scenery.

  • All hotels, acclimatisation walks and treks organised for you so you can walk with peace of mind.

  • Extended Santa Cruz trek takes in the little-hiked Ulta Valley.

  • Fantastic local guides will show you the best of the Cordillera Blanca.

Best hikes for me were Churup and Arhuaycocha – couldn’t get over the turquoise color of the water!

Our guide was amazing – very knowledgeable, friendly, and good at accommodating the different skill levels and interests of the group.

Food was great – very impressed with what they can put together in the middle of the mountains!

K. Kemmerer, Santa Cruz Trek

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Full Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Lima, transfer to hotel

Join tour in Lima, hotel

Day 2: Transfer to station, public bus to Huaraz, arrival transfer to hotel (B)

We leave Lima early by public bus for a fascinating journey of contrasts that will end amid the towering high Andes at the small highland city of Huaraz. We head north through the coastal desert as far as Pativilca, then turn inland and begin our climb northeastward into the Andes.

We follow the Fortaleza valley, the fertile cultivated river banks contrasting dramatically with the barren mountain sides. Cacti gradually give way to denser vegetation and then puna grassland as we ascend to the highest point on our journey, Conococha (4,050m/13,287ft).

We turn north into the Callejon de Huaylas and enter a different world, the huge snowpeaks of the Cordillera Blanca dominating the landscape.

We arrive in Huaraz (3,090m/10,138ft) late afternoon and check into our hotel.

Day 3: Puka Ventana walk, hotel (B)

A bustling town of 80,000 inhabitants, Huaraz lies amid the scenic splendour of the Callejon de Huaylas and is the ideal base from which to explore the region. Callejon de Huaylas is the name given to the Santa valley, which separates the Cordillera Blanca from the Cordillera Negra, and rates as one of the finest areas of South America for its superb mountain panoramas.

The Callejon is bordered to the east by the Cordillera Blanca, the mountain range with the greatest number of peaks over 6,000 metres outside the Himalayas.

From Huaraz itself one is awestruck by the breathtaking vista of Mounts Vallunaraju (5,686m/18,655ft), Tocllaraju (6,034m/19,797ft) and Ranrapalca (6,162m/20,217ft) towering over the city and, to the north, the gigantic forms of Huascarán (6,768m/22,205ft) and Huandoy (6,395m/20,981ft).

Over the next two days, while acclimatising to the altitude before our trek, we will have the opportunity to discover the wonders of this fascinating region.

Besides its magnificent scenery, the area is renowned for its traditional villages with their lively markets (easily reached by public bus or mountain bike), its thermal springs, and pre-Inca history. One of the oldest and most remarkable archaeological sites in all the Andes, the remote 3,000 year old cult centre of Chavin de Huantar, can be reached by bus. The Huari-Tiahuanaco (pre-Inca) site of Wilkawain is not far from Huaraz.

 

Today’s walk

Orientation meeting in your hotel in the morning to review your itinerary, answer questions, and finalise logistical details of the trip.

Head out on a 4-hour acclimatisation hike to the Puka Ventana (“red window”) outside of town, where you’ll get great views of the entire Cordillera Blanca range from North the South.

Spend the night in your Huaraz hotel.

Day 4: Acclimatisation walk to Laguna Churup (4,500m), hotel (B,L)

Today we start out acclimatisation by heading up to 4,500m/14,764ft and to the beautiful Laguna Churup. We listen to our bodies and see how well we are acclimatising, taking it very slowly in the thin mountain air.

Mount Churup’s reflection in the clear waters of Laguna Churup is the reward for today’s efforts, and well worth it as the peak provides a stunning backdrop to the laguna.

We return to Huaraz and our hotel, maintaining the mountaineering rule of acclimatisation – walk high, sleep low.

Day 5: Depart Huaraz for Cashapampa, trek 4 hours to Llama corral, camp (B,L,D)

Today we embark on our trek into the Santa Cruz valley.

The drive to the trailhead takes us north through some magical landscapes. Leaving the Santa valley at Caraz (2,290m/7,513ft) we continue to Cashapampa (2,900m/9,514ft) where we start the trek.

We begin with a gradual ascent of the Santa Cruz valley. By mid-afternoon the valley levels out and, at Llamacorral, we set up our camp.

Distance:                     23.4km/14.8 miles

Highest point:             3,792m/12,441ft

Starting altitude:        2,692m/8,831ft

Finishing altitude:       3,792m/12,441ft

Height gained:          1,124m/3,688ftt

Height lost:                 26m/85ft

Day 6: Trek towards Punta Union past Alpamayo base camp, 5-7 hours trekking, (B,L,D)

After a heart breakfast, we break camp and set off.

We pass the lakes of Laguna Chica and Laguna Grande and begin our ascent towards the first pass, the magnificent peak of Taulliraju (5,830m/19,127ft) looming large up ahead.

We camp at Taullipampa surrounded by spectacular mountain views, and there is an option to see the Alpamayo base camp, for those with the energy.

Distance:                     21km/13 miles

Highest point:             4,178m/13,703ft

Starting altitude:        3,792m/12,441ft

Finishing altitude:       4,178m/13,703ft

Height gained:           414m/1,358ft

Height lost:                 30m/98ft

Day 7: Up and over Punta Union pass (4,750m), down to campsite at 4,200m, 6-7 hours trekking (B,L,D)

We continue the ascent today, and face the challenge of the Punta Union pass.

It is a steep zig-zagging climb across moranic screes, fringing the shores of the turquoise lake of Taullicocha.

The panorama that unfolds as we approach the pass at Punta Union (4,750m/15,584ft) is magnificent; the nearby peaks of Chacraraju (6,112m/20,052ft), Artesonraju (6,025m/19,767ft) and Piramide (5,885m/19,308ft) as well as Alpamayo (5,947m/19,511ft), Santa Cruz (6,259m/20,535ft) and Huandoy (6,395m/20,981ft) fill the view.

We descend into the Huaripampa valley passing many tarns, to camp at Huaripampa.

Distance:                     18.8km/11.7 miles

Highest point:             4,768m/15,644ft

Starting altitude:        4,178m/13,703ft

Finishing altitude:       3,697m/12,131ft

Height gained:            1,095m/3,593ft

Height lost:                 1,071m/3,514ft

Day 8: To Vaqueria, then trek into Ulta Valley, 5-6 hours trekking, then camp (B,L,D)

Today we continue our descent towards Vaqueria (3,700m/12,139ft), then cut southeast on the trail at Colcabamba.

We’ve left our first valley and now enter the Ulta valley and set up at a lovely camping spot, before tomorrow’s ascent of our second pass.

Distance:                     9km/5.6 miles

Highest point:             3,728m/12,231ft

Starting altitude:        3,697m/12,131ft

Finishing altitude:      3,728m/12,231ft

Height gained:           316m/1,037ft

Height lost:                 287m/942ft

Day 9: Hike over a second pass, 5-6 hours trekking, camp (B,L,D)

Our last full day of hiking sees up break camp and head up and over our final pass.

Great views are afforded as we descend to our final, rather beautiful campsite, where we set up camp and reflect on our fantastic trekking trip.

Distance:                     24.4km/15.2 miles

Highest point:             4,657m/15,280ft

Starting altitude:       3,728m/12,231ft

Finishing altitude:      3,862m/12,671ft

Height gained:           819m/2,087ft

Height lost:                 792m/2,598ft

Day 10: Hike out, meet transport, drive to Huaraz, celebration banquet, hotel (B,L,D)

Our last morning in camp, we pack up and hike out to meet our transport at the road.

Transfer to Huaraz for a well-deserved warm shower and celebration banquet!

Day 11: Morning bus to Lima, tour ends (B)

We take you to the bus station for the morning bus to Lima, and the tour ends.


Prices From $1,915 / £1,624 per person

Enquire about booking

What's Included?

All in-country transport during program, including airport shuttles & private transport to all itinerary destinations, first-class bus tickets between Lima and Huaraz, hotels as listed, professional English-speaking guide for acclimatisation activities and trek, expedition cook, meals as listed (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner) plus snacks on trek, national park entry & all community/camping fees, sleeping tents, sleeping mats (foam), Dining tent, table, chairs + cook tent & bathroom tent, dining utensils, donkeys for communal kit, first aid kit stocked for wilderness expeditions, satellite telephone.

What's Not Included?

International flights (we can look for prices for you), insurance, sleeping bag, other meals, snacks and drinks, personal items, airport taxes, optional excursions, extra entrance fees, tips, laundry etc.


Accommodation

We use clean, central 2-3* hotels in towns, all with private bathrooms.

Camping we use top quality two-man tents on all treks.

Tour Staff

All guides are certified, bilingual, English-speaking guides who have worked with us for many years.

Cooks, mule drivers and additional staff are all from the local, nearby communities and we have worked with them for a long time.


Meals

Vegetarians and many other dietary requirements are catered for without problems. Please let us know in advance of any requirements you have.

You wake early, usually around 07.00. Breakfast is served in a dining tent, and consists of hot drinks, porridge, toast, jams and bread, and your guide will explain the day’s trekking plans.

Lunch is usually around 13.00 and can feature soups, meats, salads and fish, with vegetarian options and hot drinks too.

The campsites are comfortable and around 17.00 hot drinks, popcorn and other snacks are served to help you recover energy.

Dinner is served around 19.30, and will feature pasta, mashed potatoes, meat, fish or vegetarian options, followed by hot drinks and a pudding.

Activity Level

We have classified this as a moderate trek, and you need to be in good physical shape for it.

You have two acclimatisation hikes, then walk 4-7 hours a day for 5 consecutive days, over rugged mountain trails at elevation.

There is a high altitude pass to cross at 4,750m/15,583ft and we walk and sleep at high altitude for long periods of this tour.

Pre-trip preparation should include challenging cardiovascular exercise (including regular hikes on varied terrain) and a healthy, balanced diet.

Well-worn hiking boots are highly recommended.

All guests are encouraged to hike at their own pace, taking breaks whenever needed, to ensure a successful and enjoyable trek for all.

Most people go to bed fairly early after a long day trekking, to recover energy for the morning.

Enquire about booking

Practical Information

Introduction to Peru

Peru is the perfect holiday destination for adventure travellers that want an amazing variety of activity, geography and cultural travel experiences.

The breadth of travel experiences in Peru is breathtaking – from trekking in the Andes to Machu Picchu to the tropical jungle of the Amazon, and plenty in between.

The people of Peru make it a special destination too, with its colourful and traditional street life and friendly locals.

Geography of Peru

Peru is made up of 3 distinct geographical areas: the coast, the mountains and the jungle.

The costa or coastal region is a narrow ribbon of desert 2,250 km long, crossed by fertile river valleys flowing from the Andes. It takes up 11% of the country and holds more than 40% of the population.

The cold Humboldt current gives rise to a blanket of mist – the garua – which hangs above coastal cities like the capital Lima from May to November.

Heading east, you’re soon climbing above the garua and into the Andes. The sierra, or mountainous region, covers some 25% of Peru’s territory and contains 50% of the population. The sierra inhabitants are mainly Indigenous or Mestizo, and many still speak Quechua or Aymara.

The sierra contains dozens of 6,000-metre snow peaks and volcanoes, including Huascaran (6,768m) the highest mountain in the tropics. The deep valley basins contain most of the towns and arable land; the terracing and canal systems of the Incas and pre-Incas are often still used today.

The eastern Andes are heavily forested up to 3,350m and sweep down into the Amazon Basin.

Peru’s selva or jungle makes up almost two thirds of the country’s area, but holds only about 6% of the population: the only towns with significant populations are Iquitos and Pucallpa.

 

Weather in Peru

You can also read about the weather of Peru in our blog.

Peru is located in the southern tropics (latitudes 0º to 18º), but climate varies significantly according to season, altitude and region.

 

Lima & the coast

From May to October, Lima is often overcast, but with minimal precipitation. There are sunny spells, and it’s a fresh to pleasant 13-20ºC.

At the same time, inland  areas and the north coast mid to high 20’s ºC.

November to April is generally warm and sunny and Lima enjoys warm temperature of 19-25ºC, with the coast averaging 22-30ºC.

 

The Andes

Climate depends largely on altitude. As a rule of thumb, below 2,000m climate is mild and above 2,000m warm clothing is required for evenings, nights and early mornings.

The Andean sun is very strong.

 

May to Oct (dry season in The Andes)

Cusco (3,300m): Average max/min temps: 22ºC /2ºC. Average 3 or 4 wet days per month.

Arequipa (2,380m): Average max/min temps: 26ºC /9ºC. Sunny more than 340 days/year with minimal precipitation.

On highland treks: Conditions are generally dry. However, at this time of year, expect a range of conditions within a single day: cold/freezing nights at camps above 4,000m, where pre-dawn temperatures can be -5ºC; warm, spring-like mornings and afternoons; and cold evenings.

Note that mountain weather can be fickle and localised, and that precipitation is not unknown in the dry season. Expect temperatures to swing between sun and shade, sheltered and exposed ground and with altitude gain and loss. A quick-setting sun means temperatures drop fast.

In the cloud forest, e.g. around Machu Picchu, daytime conditions are generally warm or hot, and evenings cool.

 

Nov to March/April (wet season in The Andes)

Cusco: Average max/min temps: 23ºC /6ºC. Average 13 wet days per month.

Arequipa: Average max/min temps: 25ºC /14ºC.

On highland treks: Wetter conditions, with cooler days and milder nights than dry season. Jan-Mar usually the wettest months.

 

The Amazon rainforest

Year-round, weather conditions are hot and humid and there is always the risk of rain

There is a ‘dry season’ in Tambopata and Manu between May and October. The average daytime high temperature is between 25°C and 34°C and the average nighttime low is between 16°C and 22°C. Heavy downpours typically occur every few days.

Around 80% of annual average rainfall – approx 2,000 mm in Manu and Tambopata and 1,400 mm in Iquitos – occurs in the wet season Nov-April.

On rare occasions, between May and September, cold fronts from Argentina – ‘friajes’ – can sweep into southwest Amazonia and push temperatures down to 9° C. (Friajes usually last between 1 and 3 days).

Weather in Peru's Andes

You can also read about the weather of Peru  in our blog.

 

The Andes

Climate depends largely on altitude. As a rule of thumb, below 2,000m climate is mild and above 2,000m warm clothing is required for evenings, nights and early mornings.

The Andean sun is very strong.

 

May to Oct (dry season in The Andes)

Cusco (3,300m): Average max/min temps: 22ºC /2ºC. Average 3 or 4 wet days per month.

Arequipa (2,380m): Average max/min temps: 26ºC /9ºC. Sunny more than 340 days/year with minimal precipitation.

On highland treks: Conditions are generally dry. However, at this time of year, expect a range of conditions within a single day: cold/freezing nights at camps above 4,000m, where pre-dawn temperatures can be -5ºC; warm, spring-like mornings and afternoons; and cold evenings.

Note that mountain weather can be fickle and localised, and that precipitation is not unknown in the dry season. Expect temperatures to swing between sun and shade, sheltered and exposed ground and with altitude gain and loss. A quick-setting sun means temperatures drop fast.

In the cloud forest, e.g. around Machu Picchu, daytime conditions are generally warm or hot, and evenings cool.

 

Nov to March/April (wet season in The Andes)

Cusco: Average max/min temps: 23ºC /6ºC. Average 13 wet days per month.

Arequipa: Average max/min temps: 25ºC /14ºC.

On highland treks: Wetter conditions, with cooler days and milder nights than dry season. Jan-Mar usually the wettest months.

ATOL holiday protection

Andean Trails has two decades of experience of dealing with South America holidays.

We pay a fee to the CAA for every licensable passenger we book since we hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the CAA will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking.

We also offer ATOL (Civil Aviation Authority) protected holidays to give our customers peace of mind when booking and travelling.

When you buy an ATOL protected air holiday package from Andean Trails Ltd you will receive a Confirmation Invoice from us confirming your arrangements and your protection under our Air Travel Organiser’s Licence number 6275.

You can read more about ATOL, who is covered and what protections you have if not ATOL-covered, on our ATOL page.

 

What is ATOL?

The CAA’s ATOL scheme offers protection to your money and your holiday if you book with us. Not everybody is covered (see ‘Who is covered?’ for more), as you must purchase an ‘air package holiday’ with Andean Trails to be protected.

And  ‘air package holiday’ is defined as including a flight and some ground services (hotel, transfer, trek etc). This is also known as an ‘ATOL-protected holiday’.

 

Who is covered?

To be covered by ATOL, you must book a flight and some ground services with us and be from the UK. If you are from the UK and only book ground services and no flights, you are not covered by ATOL (see below for more on how non-ATOL clients are covered).

If you are outside the UK and buy flights with us, you will be ATOL protected IF any of the flights booked with Andean Trails touches/stops in the UK at any point during your holiday package booked with us.

If you buy your flights elsewhere, please check with that agent if you are ATOL protected. Be careful with online flight purchases and make sure you know what protection you have, if any, before paying for flights.

Not all holiday or travel services offered and sold by us will be protected by the ATOL scheme. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking.

For land only holidays not involving any air travel, in accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992”, all UK passengers booking with Andean Trails Ltd. are fully protected for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of all money paid to us, arising from cancellation or curtailment of travel arrangements due to the insolvency of Andean Trails.

 

I’m not ATOL covered, what protection do I have?

If you are not ATOL covered, any payments you make to us go to a Trust account.

We can only access this money once your tour has been completed, meaning that if anything happens to Andean Trails Limited while you are on holiday, then your money is secure and you can either complete the trip or be able to make it home.

If you pay for your holiday with a credit card, some offer payment protection – please check with your cardholder.

You also should have cancellation protection written into your insurance (which we recommend you have at the time of booking) in case you need to cancel.


Peru’s Amazon Rainforest

Peru boasts in its Amazonian region a vast swathe of world-class tropical wilderness with several rain forest and cloud forest reserves which are home to an immense diversity of wildlife.

Accessible from Lima, Iquitos or Cusco, the Amazon jungle is just a short flight away.

In Peru’s southeast lies the extraordinary region comprising the Tambopata National Reserve and the Bahuaja Sonene and Manu National Parks, with the greatest animal and plant diversity anywhere in the world.

Whether you choose to base yourself at a comfortable lodge or enjoy a more demanding camping trip, you can be sure of a unique, exhilarating and unforgettable experience.

Arequipa & Colca Canyon, Peru

The beautiful colonial city of Arequipa is replete with history and culture, and is the gateway to the condors of Colca Canyon.

Nestled at 2,325m/7,627ft, the ‘white city’ sits at the foot of three tremendous volcanoes: El Misti (5,821m/19,098ft), Chachani (6,075m/19,930ft) and Pichu Pichu (5,542m/18,182ft).

Arequipa’s attractions include the Cathedral, Compañía de Jesús Church, Santa Catalina Convent and the Dama de Ampato (Juanita Mummy) Museum.

With a year-round spring climate and sunshine guaranteed for 300 days of the year, it is the perfect place to begin acclimatising before continuing upwards.

Nearby is the famous Colca Canyon. At hundred kilometres long, this incredible gorge  is said to reach a maximum depth of 3,400m/11,155ft – twice that of the Grand Canyon.

An overnight tour to Colca gives you the chance to see the iconic, soaring condors of the canyon.

Cusco, Peru

Cusco is the archaeological and cultural capital of South America.

The one-time centre of the vast Inca Empire is a bustling highland city with bags of character.

Its whitewashed streets and plazas feature a fascinating blend of Inca and Spanish colonial stonework and offer endless possibilities for exploration.

You don’t have to venture far to find outstanding examples of high quality Inca architecture, including the monumental temple fortress of Sacsayhuaman.

There is also the fertile farming land of the Sacred Valley on the doorstep,  with many Inca terraces, temples and fortresses, plus colourful local markets and small villages.

At night, Cusco offers an excellent array or restaurants and bars plus the continent’s best Andean folk music scene.

Kuelap, Peru

In the northeast of Peru lies Kuelap – the jewel in the massive archaeological crown of the Chachapoyas Cloud People.

The mystical structure of Kuelap – dubbed the Peru’s second Machu Picchu by locals – is 1,200 years old.

It features massive limestone walls towering 60 feet, pottery, bones and hundreds of mysterious round stone structures, and away from the crowds of other sites.

This is a remote area of sub-tropical valleys, half way down the eastern slopes of the Andes. The jungle is impenetrable, dense with low trees, bromeliads, bamboos, orchids and mosses.

Lake Titicaca, Peru

Lake Titicaca, at around 4,000m/13,123ft above sea level, is a vast shimmering body of water on the Peru/Bolivia border.

It is the world’s highest navigable lake, set against a breathtaking background of towering ice-covered Andean mountain peaks.

The islands and shoreline of Lake Titicaca support many Indian communities, including the well known floating islands of Uros and the more remote islands of Taquile and Amantani. Here, traditions are strong and it appears time really does stand.

Agriculture, fishing, knitting and weaving are important to the islanders and by staying a day or two you gain just a small insights into this traditional way of life.

Islanders welcome tourists into their homes and this is a wonderful opportunity to experience island life.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Nothing says Peru quite the way Machu Picchu does.

The Lost City of the Incas, perches dramatically on a ridge-top 400 metres above the Urubamba river. The extensive site, with its many terraces, temples and palaces, is set amid a beautiful landscape of deep gorges and thickly forested mountains.

When Machu Picchu was rediscovered early in the 20th century and cleared of forest, it was found to be very well preserved. It has since presented archaeologists with many unanswered questions regarding the role it played in Inca times.

The sense of grandeur, whether you arrive on the Inca Trail or not, is impressive.

Try to arrive early at the site to enjoy it at its best – and late afternoon can often see you almost alone in the ruins.

Lima, Peru

Lima, the capital city of Peru, is a vibrant bustling place with a wide variety of things to do.

Stroll or bike around the historic centre, visiting the many museums or just chilling out in a café or restaurant in Miraflores.

In Parque Kennedy you can sit outside in Parisian fashion and watch the world go by in cafes and restaurants, or walk to the shore and the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

There are a number of artisan shops & market stalls, plus a big silver jewellery trade, and a burgeoning number of top end restaurants with delicious food.

The centre of Lima is home to impressive Colonial architecture – Plaza de Armas has the Palace, official residence of the president, on one side, and on another is the Cathedral.

San Francisco Church, home of the Catacombs, is well worth a visit, as is the Inquisition museum.

The Cordillera Blanca and Huayhuash, Peru

North east of Lima, the Cordillera Blanca offers fantastic mountain scenery and some of the best trekking and climbing in the Andes.

The Cordillera Blanca boasts dozens of peaks over 6,000 metres, including Peru’s highest Huascaran at 6,768m/22,205ft above sea level.

The Blanca range also contains the world’s largest concentration of tropical glaciers.

This is an ideal destination for treks, from just a few to 12 days or so and also an ideal starting place for learning or improving mountaineering skills.

The nearby Huayhuash mountain range contains a dazzling array of snow peaks including seven summits above 6,000 metres.

This is a trekking paradise with breathtaking majestic panoramas and stunningly remote and picturesque camping spots. There is no better place to visit to get away from it all.

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