Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018
Showing posts with label Madeira. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Madeira. Show all posts

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Paul do Mar

A great day out on Walk 49 in our 3rd edition Rother guide.

The descent from Prazeres to the fishing village of Paul do Mar was 500 metres down a lovingly restored classic cobbled path in a vertiginous valley.

Whiffs of rain occasionally splattered us from cloud clinging to the centre of the island, but we remained in sunshine. 

A grey wagtail led us to easier ground, past a naked gentlemen leering towards the Americas, and to welcome refreshments from the Bar dos Pescadores. Then a walk between houses that reminded us of Staithes led to a blustery seafront where the spray from crashing waves mixed with the rain coming seemingly from an empty sky. Expert windsurfers demonstrated their skills.

It was a 640 metre climb up to the Levada Nova, which isn't all that new as it dates from before 1953. It's lined with concrete rather than the more familiar stone, so it does actually look new.

Another lovely paved path took us up to the levada, half way up which we paused for lunch at a viewpoint where an old wheel remains from a conveyor belt system for moving goods. Prickly pears provided the foreground for photos back to Paul do Mar, which is pictured above from near the start of the walk at Hotel Jardim Atlantico, which also sports fine views towards the Statue of Liberty. 

We met a few folk today, including a couple of large guided tours on the levada. Also in evidence were some very chatty charms of golfinches. Kestrels and buzzards were in attendance. Swifts, lizards and dragonflies made guest appearances - the lizards in particular were waiting for the first chance to hoover up our lunch crumbs. 

The 8 km or so of levada walking was an absolute delight. The Levada Nova enjoys an open aspect with good sea views. The only downside was that I arrived back at Whitey rather battered with a grazed knee and no shoes. Never mind, the soles of my Merrell shoes had after all parted company with the uppers. My claim to have been mugged was treated with the derision it deserved. 

Luckily, we returned to Funchal after this 19 km stroll (in a little over six hours) to find our fridges full of beer. It being our last night, that situation had to be remedied.

Next stop - Timperley. 

Saturday, 8 November 2014

The 25 Springs

Today we drove along the coast to Calheta and then up a hill to Rabaçal.

Meanwhile, Pat went on a short walk from the hotel to loosen up for another bout of authoring.

A light mizzle up at 1200 metres was at first ignored by us, but when Dave produced a brolly the mizzle turned to rain. We were in a cloud. It was probably clear and sunny up at 1800 metres.

After walking down to the big forestry house in the middle of nowhere at Rabaçal, we headed down to the Levada do Risco and onwards along the easy path to the Risco waterfall, a long thread that wends its way down a cliff face.

Retracing our steps, we soon descended to the popular Levada das 25 Fontes. The gang is pictured here, with Dave sporting his brolly that most of the time looks like a satellite dish. The path was busy. The levada was full of trout. Chaffinches could be fed by hand. Heather trees were everywhere, as were many varieties of lichen. Coachloads of folk seemed to be coming back from the 25 Springs, which turned out to be an amphitheatre of small waterfalls. Photos were taken in the rain. My phone had camera shake and my wet weather camera was on the sunset setting. Boo hoo. 

A continuation of this levada was thankfully quiet, as most people are guided directly back to Rabaçal. So we found a sheltered, albeit drippy, spot for lunch.

Returning along the busy path, we soon found a steep zigzag route down to the next levada - there are at least four levels hereabouts - the Levada da Rocha Vermelha. This was a superb levada, and we didn't see anyone else on it. We walked along it for some way, passing a long tunnel, the Seixal tunnel, whose exit several kilometres away was just a pinprick of light. 

Vertigo got the better of Carol, but the rest of us continued a good halfway towards Adeneiro. Returning along the same beautiful path, we admired succulents on the levada walls and rejoined Carol near the cave that marks the way back up to 25 Springs. 

We chose to continue on this lower level before taking a steep ascent path near a tunnel. After that a right turn along the 25 Springs levada soon brought us to a huge tunnel, the exploration of which will have to wait.

Then a final steep haul up to the forestry house found us indulging in €3 fares for a minibus ride back to the car.

Our walk had covered about 15 km, with around 400 metres of ascent. 

Coffees etc at a good café next to the  Jungle Rain Café (closed for refurbishment) on the plateau warmed us up, as did the steep 1000 metre descent in Whitey back to the coast road. For a change, we were back at Savoy Gardens before dark, and for the first time, there was room for Whitey in the car park.

Keith and Carol even found time to walk into Funchal. 

Later - the Madeiran buffet was excellent - full of local delicacies like Scabbardfish.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Camacha Adventures

Pat decided to go painting - she's designing a cover for her latest 'British Cosy' genre book.

The rest of us drove to Camacha for a gentle levada walk - Levada da Serra to Largo do Miranda above Funchal, then descending to the Levada dos Tournos for the walk back to Camacha. 

Lots of people were walking these popular levadas, including several large guided groups. Thomsons charge over €35 per person per day for such excursions! Gorse, daisies and sweet peas were amongst the colourful flowers lining the path as we passed through verdant green eucalyptus woods.

The day was warm but overcast. Blossoms of a host of flowers adorned the path. We reached a tunnel. It's known to us as 'Walton's Wade' in memory of Barry's adventure here on 22 November 2009. Today we managed the 500 metres underground along a narrow 'towpath' with no untoward incidents. 

After 20 km and nearly six hours on the hoof, we found ourselves back at cloudy Camacha at 4 pm. "Let's go to Pico do Arieiro" suggested some joker. Four of them actually. I thought it was a wind up. I was wrong. Soon I was chauffeuring the foursome up a 1000 metre ascent full of potholes in a thick fog.

"Blue sky up there" observed Sue. Amazingly she was right. I'd been proved completely wrong. We emerged into bright sunshine and calm weather above the clouds at 1810 metres. What more can I say. The lower picture should be sufficient. We lingered at this viewpoint with views to Pico Ruivo, the 1862 metre high point of the island. Yesterday's summit, Pico Grande, was also just about visible. 

The drive back through more fog wasn't that pleasant. 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Pico Grande

Today's first picture is from yesterday. I meant to attach it instead of yesterday's second image but I made a 'wrong click'.

Today Pat went on another bus ride and did some more writing. 

The others decided the weather would be suitable for some summiteering, so the five of us went up to Encumeada, a pass at about 1100 metres, in Whitey.

Sunny though it was at 10am, clouds were clearly making their way in. However, a delightful paved pathway through eucalyptus woodland, from which today's second picture was taken, took us down to Grass Bridge and then inexorably up to Bocca do Cerro, at 1300 metres. We were still half a mile away from and 350 metres below the fog-bound summit of Pico Grande. 

The paved way is called the Royal Path, and was used by generations as a means of crossing the island in the days before the current network of roads. 

By now the cloud had come in as expected. Our Cicerone guide had been discredited as we were about half way round Route 19, which Paddy Dillon claims to be 9 km in total. We had already walked nearly 10 km!

Paddy's route seemed to me to be inappropriate for the conditions, so after lunch I took a final picture of the summit party (see above) and retraced my steps from Bocca do Cerro. The first 3 km were in mist, with unseen mewing buzzards and very visible flitting firecrests - intent on their foraging and oblivious to human presence. Nobody had been willing to join me, so I'd left them to scoff at my suggestion that they pay attention to micro navigation and the possible need for 'pacing' in order to get them to the planned descent path to the north of Pico Grande.

I arrived back at the café at Encumeada at about 4.15, after a 19 km outing in about 6 hours. Shortly before that I received a message from Dave saying that they were back at the lunch spot and returning the same way - 'Eta 6.30'.

Hang on - 6.30 is dinner time! Ho hum...

Here's what I've managed to extract from them concerning the three hours or so between leaving them at Bocca do Cerro and hearing from them again from that same spot. (I knew I should have brought my Kindle.)

"We summited without difficulty. Fantastic but brief cloud inversion. Descent to Paddy Dillon's route. Thin path. Little evidence of people having gone this way. Then fog. Missed 'plummeting descent' and ended up back on the ridge, where a superb cloud inversion started to emerge. Unwise to continue on Dillon's route as now 3pm. Returned to lunch spot then a quick descent in two hours to waiting Whitey, arriving at dusk - 6.10. Uneventful drive home thanks to the dynamic duo of navigational genius Keith and his assistant, Lady App."

Dinner is served between 6.30 and 9 o'clock, so no problem with that - just in case anyone was worried!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

A Coastal Classic

Today Pat enjoyed an open top bus ride and a bit more writing. 

Keith and I visited a car shop and came away with a reasonably priced Fiesta - 'Whitey' - in less than the time it took Carol and Sue to acquire provisions for lunch. No insurance excess, no charge for extra drivers. Bargain!

The 8 km (4 km each way) stroll on the spectacular rocky coast of the São Lourenço peninsula is an old favourite.  This is the fourth time I've been on this walk from Baia d'Abra to the summits beyond Casa do Sardinha and back. It's delightful. 

Rain was clearly falling over 'inland' Madeira, but we enjoyed sunshine and an occasional stiff breeze. A little over four hours was spent over the 8 km course, before we reached the ice cream van at the car park. 

During the walk we enjoyed the company of a multinational cast of humans, as well as a kestrel, lots of pigeons and lizards, and a variety of common flora with a Madeiran twist. Madeira Sea Stock for example. More flowers should be identified in our slideshow in due course. 

The short walk enabled us to return to Funchal by 4pm for an afternoon and evening of traditional debauchery.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

An Urban Levada Walk

Whilst Pat set about writing another chapter of her book, the rest of us enjoyed a walk from the hotel.

About 30 metres above the Savoy Gardens a narrow lane reaches the Levada dos Piornais, which we followed for over 8 km to a gate. Well, Sue, Dave and Keith went to the gate; Carol and I stopped in the vicinity of a bridge shortly before the final vertiginous section of unprotected path.

Bananas and kestrels, and an excellent coffee shop in Quebradas graced the sunlit route, though the mountain rain did occasionally stray our way in the form of a light drizzle. 

After retracing our steps to a bemused foreign couple, we ascended 150 metres up steps and roadways to join the Levada Novo do Curral up an alleyway beyond the Pinheiro das Voltas snack-bar. Lunch was taken on a concrete roof top adjoining the levada, before heading back round to the Socorridos valley inhabited by the Piornais levada 150 metres below.

Our respective susceptibility to vertigo dictated how far we each went along this path. I stopped soon after the houses of Fajã came into view ahead of us. Carol joined me twenty minutes later, with the other three enjoying 30 minutes (a good kilometre) each way beyond my inclination. It was most pleasant waiting in the shade of the levada walls on this hot and humid day.  

In fact, Carol and I were waiting at the point where our Rother guidebook states "Due to the perilously close steep drops, do not continue along this path." Rother's latest edition does not even include this walk.

In contrast, Paddy Dillon's Cicerone guide quite happily describes a walk from Curral das Freiras, which we could see high above the Socorridos valley, all the way to Funchal. He describes the section walked by Sue, Dave and Keith as follows:

"... use a crumbling stony path ... walk down exposed steps ... turn another corner where the levada is covered with rockfall detritus, then a series of descents drop the water level" (here the three adventurers enjoyed a view down to the sea, thinking they had passed right through the mountain to the north side of the island!) "Pause and study the awesome rocky side valley, which is the most dangerous part of the walk ... use steps to cross a wedged boulder. Enter a curious tunnel, which is high and wide, with water rushing through it. The tunnel is bent, so the exit cannot be seen ... a series of 'windows' allow light to enter. A waterfall pours down outside (and inside!) these 'windows' ... stacks of boulders in the tunnel, and the roof is low. The next stretch is very dangerous. Turn out of the tunnel and walk down 35 steep, exposed and slippery steps ... go through a rock arch to reach safer ground. Take a break and get things dried" ... etc, etc, etc. 

Reading this whilst waiting certainly made me glad I stopped when I did, though the protagonists returned elated from their adventure. 

The lovely weather continued as we returned to Pinheira das Voltas and meandered slowly back along Paddy Dillon's 'Walk 38' route, reaching the hotel at 5pm after a 7.5 hour walk covering between 19 km (me) and 24 km (Dave, Sue and Keith), with Carol somewhere in between. 

Today's pictures are an early view from the Levada dos Piornais, and a Bird of Paradise flower taken late in the day.

There should be a slide show in due course with evidence of a bit more 'excitement'.

Monday, 3 November 2014

November Sunshine and Warmth

This morning's bright sunshine and warmth in Timperley surely couldn't last, could it? 

Past Novembers in Timperley have been cold, wet, windy and dark - in comparison with our current surroundings, anyway. 

The view from our room on the second floor isn't much different to the picture shown above, taken from the roof terrace of the Savoy Gardens Hotel, where we are spending the week with our good friends Dave and Pat, and Keith and Carol.

The sunlit amphitheatre of Funchal (Madeira) is quite stunning in the afternoon light.

This week's entries should be fairly short as they will mostly be repeating previous escapades recorded on these pages, and socialising will take precedence.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


Funchal flight delayed by 24.5 hours!

Cheats! They got an extra day. We hope they were well cared for…

Monday, 21 November 2011

A Dream

Mick is at the tiller.

Sue is leaning forward at the bow, sunning herself.

Gayle is booming commands from the bridge.

I'm rowing!?

Surely not....

...till next time, Madeira...

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Three Stowaways?

Three weary travellers leered longingly at the 14 storey MSC Fantasia and 12 storey Queen Elizabeth.

"I want to go on a cruise" demanded Gayle....

"Alright, perhaps not..." she accepted, after Mick had explained about the narrow walkways and dodgy planks placed high above the seething ocean, "I can see that 'cruising' has turned all these people into quivering, disabled, obese wrecks" she observed, scrutinising those fit enough to have been released from the confines of their quarters to run the Funchal lunch gauntlet.

It's 9km from the Savoy Gardens Hotel to the other end of Funchal and back. We measured it. There was no need to do so as Gayle announced yesterday that she had met her target for the year at some point on one of the day's three levadas - five miles a day = 1825 for the year. She seemed pleased. She can now 'lard it' in front of the TV for the rest of the year, formulating energy sapping graphs whilst the rest of us soldier on in a bid to meet self imposed targets by the end of the year, fearful of the dire consequences of failure following the emergency enactment of President Sloman's 'Walk and Whisky' bill*.

Anyway, back at base, all was quiet until the daily ritual of 'The Quiz'. The now legendary performance of 'The Hikers' continued apace as they flew to yet another stunning victory. "It's a pity we have to leave tomorrow" whinged one Mick Blackburn, "I've never won anything before. Shame there's no prize!"

"Pass me another pint, obrigado" chorused the other three 'Hikers'.

*This piece of fiction proved just a bit much for today's editor, and the explanation of the bill has been left in reserve....

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Three Hats in a Basket Shop

Basket Cases. All of them.

Today we took 15 minutes in a taxi - €22 again, but at least this driver didn't accuse us of being 'The Lazy English' on account of our inability to speak Portuguese - to reach yesterday's end of walk point....

....The basket shop at Camacha. We left the 'purchasing' to coach loads of cruise liner escapees, but we did enjoy a coffee before setting off on foot back to our hotel. Gayle, a WiFi junkie, was allowed to download news from an assortment of bloggers. That gave us all a laugh.

So, we got a taxi for 15 minutes, then spent the next six hours walking 21km back to the hotel. Yes, that's what some of us do on our holidays. Crazy!? But almost true. The other three obviously thought it was crazy as they gave up after 18km and succumbed to the allure of another taxi - on the pretence that one of their number needed to be back in time for some completely unnecessary beauty treatment.*

The route was actually excellent - Levada da Serra to Choupana, then down to the Levada dos Tournos. Along that towards Monte until the vertiginous section (we went too far and hit that section - there were nearly tears) before which a steep downhill path eventually reaches the excellent Levada Bom Sucesso; beyond that steep steps lead to the centre of Funchal.

We are now enjoying sunset over Funchal from the roof of our hotel, celebrating 'beer o'clock'. Must go. Have a lovely evening.

*"So that'd be Mick" whirred the worn out cogs of President Sloman's brain.

Late News: M+G won the quiz again, by five clear points. Geniuses! So that's why they were so anxious to get back...

Friday, 18 November 2011

Levada Lunches

Pictured above are three survivors from the Levada Lunch of 18 November.

Perhaps it was not so wise to follow the euphoria experienced in the magnificent surroundings of Monte Palace Tropical Gardens with a tramp along a footpath 18 inches wide with a vertical drop of hundreds of feet on one side. Especially as the tickets for the gardens had fortuitously included 'free wine'. That had come in quite handy for our celebrations, but it wasn't so sensible when it came to the vertiginous tramp that followed.

I cheated by crawling. I got muddy knees. Gayle cried. Sue said we shouldn't have had that last bottle of wine. I emphasised, in deference to Alan Sloman (see his recent posting), the importance of at least one lunchtime bottle of wine for all Foreign Office staff as being a pre-requisite for their ability to spend the afternoon puzzling over the strange nature of the world's time zones.

Vultures circled above us, expecting a free lunch to be offered at any moment on the blood splattered rocks far below us.*

By some dint of fortune, with no thanks to a German fraulein who marched through us shouting "Achtung", we managed to survive, and miraculously we made it all the way along the Levada dos Tournos to Camacha. By then, Mick had been given a bravery award for negotiating a 500 metre tunnel (aka 'Barry's Splash Zone') without falling into the canal, despite the fact that he had locked his head torch in the safe of his hotel room. "My Anti Panic glasses saved me" he asserted.

"You look as blind as a bat" observed the man with a blue Berghaus Freeflow rucksack, "have you seen my missing colleague?" We directed him, probably completely the wrong way, towards a non-existent garden. He's probably still out there somewhere.

The 15km walk had taken almost five hours. We had passed at least eight drowned rats in the levada, had gorged on trackside bananas and passion fruit, and had failed to convince with our Guiding Service. Then a passing taxi hijacked us from a busy bus stop and returned us to FO HQ in about 20 minutes. Gayle immediately ordered more wine, asserting "I'll fall over without it."

Afterwards we all agreed that it had been a routine, if scary, day out and that whilst being envious of the team's close-knit cameraderie, President Sloman would on the whole be pleased with the ability of his hand chosen team to survive in the field of duty.

* I later discovered these were buzzards, and that the redness in the rocks below us was caused by iron, not blood.

We're In!

Skipping along in the Tropical Gardens at Monte, we discovered from a number of sources that we are ALL 'in' next year's TGO Challenge, as well as various other 'likely suspects'.

Thanks everyone for keeping us informed, and Alan R for your erudite comment. You'll be pleased to know that our dining table at the hotel is of course...

...Number 42...

Thursday, 17 November 2011


Today was spent 'swanning' around Funchal, with visits to the cathedral, the market, an assortment of churches, the ochre Fort de São Tiago*, and the President's Garden.

The 'bird of paradise' is Madeira's national flower. We saw lot of them today, but only one swan, hanging from a noose in the art gallery. The blue and gold Macaws in the President's Garden (isn't he kind to allow visitors to rampage amongst his shrubs?) were much more lively - boisterously enjoying life in their huge cage.

We were back at our luxury pad just in time to win the afternoon quiz. Thanks mainly to Gayle's planetarium sized brain.

Curiously, we appear to have walked at least 11km on this 'rest day in town'.

* The fort was built in 1614 to defend the city from pirates. Later, during the Napoleonic wars it became an extremely cramped billet for 3500 British troops who wanted to ensure the French didn't take the island. In 1803 it was used to house thousands of local people made homeless by devastating floods. Now it houses, inter alia, a strangled denim swan.

More snippets of historical and other interest will in due course accompany a slideshow of this trip to Paradise.

Are We In?

This was the burning question at this morning's hastily convened TGO Challengers emergency coffee break held in Funchal's main 'Mercado'.

A question mark still hovers threateningly over the three aspirants who turned up late for today's meeting.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Just One Step Back, Please

Only Mick stepped back. Sue and Gayle grabbed in vain at his slippery clothing. Luckily the long loose lace of his left plimsoll caught the wire as he fell through it, the friction grip providing an anchor for him to extricate his dangling body from the angry void.

Or should that be 'angry body from the dangling void'? I'll never make it as a writer of fiction...

It was a rainy morning in Funchal, so we decided to head for the short walk along the São Lourenço peninsula, as that may provide the best weather on the island. A taxi driver wanted €80 for the privilege of acting as chauffeur for the day. We offered €40. We bargained him down to €75. Not good enough. A short walk to Mr Hertz's Car Emporium bought us a Micrascopic motor for the day for €55 including fuel.

By the time we reached the peninsula it was still raining. But after less than a minute from departure waterproofs were removed and we enjoyed a fine if blustery 8km ramble over the lizard strewn volcanic debris that makes up this part of the island. Fine seascape views dominated, whilst low cloud engulfed the mountainous core of the island. We even continued to a fine (unnamed) summit viewpoint beyond the only house on the peninsula - Casa do Sardinha, outside which we later enjoyed lunch in a gale.

An interesting drive over a steep hill (I missed the turn for a tunnel) took us to the small town of Santana, where steep-roofed thatched houses trap tourists before they adjourn for snacks at a café that was twice the price of yesterday's snack bar on the outskirts of Funchal. M+G left their macs in the car and got soaked when, on leaving the café, Madeira's weather gods tried to inflict as many of the island's 52 known microclimates on us as it could, simultaneously.

We spent the evening gaining wide-eyed responses of incredulity as a result of interrogating hapless guests:
"Are you Bob Andrews' walking buddies?"

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

'Mine's a Coffee, Obrigado'

Despite the allure of a taxi for the day for €60 between the four of us, we chose a more traditional start to our week.

The 'town lavada' - Levada dos Piornais, has been bringing water to Funchal for 400 years. It runs about 100 metres above our hotel, so provides an interesting first day without the hassle of having to organise any transport.

Thus we spent most of the day on the increasingly narrow walkways that run beside and on top of the Piornais levada and the Levada Nova do Curral, both of which run deep into the Socorridos valley, high above its industrial floor.

I've never made it to the end of the Piornais path, and today was no exception. I baled out near a vertiginous bridge. Gayle got a bit further, and Mick and Sue made it a further 1km to a gate, beyond which the path is officially 'dangerous'.

The Curral levada narrows in a similar way, on the same hillside about 100 metres above Piornais. I bottled out on the Vereda de Santa Quiteria, but the others continued. Mick and Gayle, dressed in plimsolls, took to walking along the channel of the levada rather than risk falling off the edge.

They all turned back after a boulder detached itself from the rock face above, narrowly missing them and a German who had attached himself to the confident trio. Meanwhile, I lazed in the comfort of a wide section of path under vine trellises.

The rest of the walk passed relatively uneventfully, and with the assistance of Gayle's GPS we arrived back in daylight after a very satisfying 21km in 7 hours.

Alan, we may not make it up to Pico Ruivo as it's usually engulfed in cloud at this time of year - I did get up it on 11/11/07, if that's of any interest - the report will be one of my early postings.

Louise, time will be tight this week, and I've previously blogged about most of the places we'll visit, so please don't expect too much!

Monday, 14 November 2011

A Thorn Between Two Roses

Yes, Mick and Gayle have deserted Colin in favour of tea outside the Savoy Gardens.

Well, the tea is ours actually, imported by Sue to sustain us during the long wait for M + G to arrive. That was a mistake. Somehow their bus left the airport long after ours but still managed to overtake us. So they were here all the time - drinking beer and demolishing the chef's good work, whilst we were cooking under a hot sun on the patio.

The plan was to escape from the UK's cold November weather for a week, and it is appreciably warmer here in Funchal, despite the unseasonable warmth left behind in Timperley.

Pass the beer, Gayle!

Friday, 27 November 2009

Last of The Summer Wine go Levada Walking

Here we are, on our last day in Madeira, having another stroll in the warm sunshine along the 'Town Levada' before catching the bus home.

So it's goodbye from Dave, Barry and Sue, as well as from me; the next transmission will be from good ole virus infected blighty....

Bye bye.

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Madeiran Flora and Fauna

It's always good to see firecrests in the woods, and mewing buzzards above them.

Other bird life is relatively sparse compared with that in the UK, but there are various birds out there to be spotted by the more observant. Whilst we don't fit that category, we have seen grey wagtails and warblers and several species commonly encountered at home.

Lizards up to about 8" long are to be seen everywhere over here, popping out of their crevices to bask whenever the sun shines. We've seen no snakes though.

Spring is possibly the best time for flowers, though even now in autumn there is lots of colour, with many plants still in flower. Some of these will be included in a slide show later, so for the time being I'll leave you with this taster (see picture).

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