Walking on thin air

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September 12th 2007
Published: October 14th 2007
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12- September - Kathmandu - Lukla - Phakdin 2670m

Lukla is a different world. Very simple and friendly people, although don't expect being in a place not ready for tourists. There is plenty of restaurants and guest houses. It did not feel too busy though, maybe because we did not quite hit the high season yet. High season apparently starts in October and then the paths are full of trekkers, walking in a line, like ducks one after the other - not quite the intimate nature experience you are looking. We were few weeks away from that which on the other hand meant though that the sky would not be blue every day and that it would rain in the lower parts. The fact that the planes couldn't land for the last few days contributed towards not many people being around. Actually we were not surprised why so many planes could not land, after seeing the runway we had no more questions. Few meters with a drop off at the end. Very scary. Andy added to the fear on the plane by carrying a bag of crisps. How? As the cabins were not pressurized suddenly the bag banged open - the
Our transport to the mountainsOur transport to the mountainsOur transport to the mountains

the plane had all of about 12 seats, was quite a journey :)
looks on every one's faces, priceless 😊 Even the flight attendant came over to see what kind of bombs we smuggeled.

Another disadvantage of being here out of season was that the restaurants haven't stocked up on all ingredients yet - most importantly cheese. I'm sure we will survive 😉 Anyway, we stopped for lunch and then walked for about 2 hours to a really nice place, where we stayed for the night. Just next to our en-suite room was a vast running river and Josie couldn't resist to dip her feet in. We got the cards out and had a few good games of gin rummy and a very tasty dinner. Actually we would encourage everyone to go to Jo's Garden and try the sherpa stew, shukpa, it' s delicious! One astonishing thing you will find that everything in all those little eateries is cooked fresh. No precooked or frozen stuff. Brilliant! But count in about an hour waiting time. That's a price we are more than happy to pay for some fresh food. That night we would rest in a clean, cold and quiet room. What a difference!

13-September - Phakdin - Namche Bazaar 3440m

It is amazing how 25 minutes flight can transport you what it feels like a different age, away from hustle and bustle and more importantly away from any cars, motorbikes, rickshaws and their pesting horns. You suddenly realise the quietness, piecefullness, the sound of the river flowing by and the fresh air. You take a deep breath and you feel like the day can throw anything at you. So bring it on! That day we were off to Namche. The walk was easy at first. We passed cows and people carrying an insane amount of wood on their backs. Remember, there are no cars - so the only transport are cows, yaks or people. The last bit to Namche was actually hard work. Feet dragged slowly one after the other, up the steep hill. But also we started to feel the altitude, the air thinning and it all getting harder and harder for us. Finally we arrived in Namche. The clouds hid the mountains again so we couldn't really appreciate how high we were. However, we noticed the difference, the vegetation was much less than in the lower parts and not too many things looked like can be grown here.
What happened to the pilot's security?What happened to the pilot's security?What happened to the pilot's security?

Why is Andy smirking? Nobody knows that he is planning an attack with a bag of crisps
The life was even simpler and so was our lodge. Extra 200 rupees for a hot shower and 80 rupees to recharge your camera's battery. But at least we got a double bed that allowed us to stay close and warm at night. We collapsed as soon as we entered the room and couldn't help but have a nap. That night was not so restful, not sure if it was due to the nap we had or due to the altitude, which apparently can have an effect on your sleep.

14-September - Namche Bazaar - Acclimatisation Day

That day the clouds allowed us a peak at the mountains, but only very briefly. It's like a tease 😉 It's amazing though to see how quickly they move and make things disappear. We went to a sherpa museum and after that for a little acclimatisation walk. We walked up to a tea house, had tea and biscuits and a big rest. By that time the clouds cought up with us and we couldn't even see Namche any more. We were supposed to walk further, but we prefered to extend the rest 😊 Instead we went back to visit the local market which was full of seasonal vegetables, mainly cabbage, and anything the people might need up here. A brief walk through the village revealed that it is well catered for visitors. With shops, telephone and internet services and of course german bakeries. Back at the lodge we took the expensive shower. Who knows when the next one will be? Our second night was much more restful so we left the next day to continue the trek.

15-September - Namche Bazaar - Phorse 3800m

The bridge to Thengbuche was broken, so we had to change our route. We left for Phorse which was about 5 hours walk. After lunch we descended a long way down only to climb back up to get to the next village. Just like in real life, sometimes you have to do things that don't seem to make sense and feel demotivating but if you look again you will see that even though slowly, they actually get you closer to your goal. So bite your teeth together and walk! This was the first time Josie reached the end of her energy and her nose was running. Finally we arrived at the beautiful village of Phorse (from now on Josie's favourite) with stunning field terraces of buckwheat. Again, the mountains were covered by clouds, but we managed to see some on the way. Josie's energy was back as soon as she sat down to read her book and let the sun shine on her. Unfortunately towards the evening the cold was catching up with her and she was off to bed early, hoping to feel better the next day. It was Saturday and outside local women were chanting in their own language. Nothing else was breaking the silence of the night, magical.

16-September - Phorse - Pheriche 4220m

The morning greeted us with fantastic blue skies and breathtaking mountain views, finally!!! That would make anyone get out of bed 😊 We decided to move on. Josie tried to forget her cold, which was not too difficult that day as the views kept our minds occupied and the walkway was relatively easy. After a brief lunch we arrived at Pheriche. The lodge was quite nice, but it was significantly colder. Also, quite funnily, we were being given hot towels before each meal. Posh, posh 😉 In the evening the host lit some candles for a romantic dinner. It was so cold that the big fireplace in the middle of the room needed to be lit. Yak dung served as fuel (it actually does not smell!) and soon it was cosy warm. Our evenings were short due to the extensive exercise each day, so also that day we fell to bed early.

17-September - Pheriche

Josie took a day off to be ill and stayed in bed due to a really bad cold. While she was nursing her cold with lemon tea, Andy decided he couldn't sit still all day and dragged Mahesh off for a walk up the valley side. It was by no means an exhausting trek but a fantastic chance to get a more Ariel view of where we where staying and the surrounding mountains. On the top of the valley side, you could see the neighboring valley and also the snow covered Island Peak which lay at the head of the valley. At this height the fields below turn into a patchwork of browns and you can appreciate the scale of the whole environment. Stood in the dividing wall of 2 valleys, surrounded by large peaks on all sides with
Walking woodWalking woodWalking wood

... actually, somewhere underneath that is a person. Unbelievable
a picturesque village below, we sat there for about half an hour just taking it all in and enjoying the warmth of the sun. After that strenuous couple of hours 😊 we headed back and spent the rest of the day drinking tea and reading books. Nice to have a day off relaxing (not so much for Josie obviously as she wasn't feeling at her best), recharging the batteries for the assault on the higher altitudes the next days.

18-September - Pheriche - Lobuche 4910m - Thukla 4630m

This day would see us move to our highest altitude yet, to nearly 5000m. We started out early after breakfast and set off into the mist for the end of the valley and beyond. The mist was so thick this morning that very little was visible beyond about 10m in front. It can be very disorienting at times as you have no idea where you are or where you are going. If we had not seen the valley on the days before we would not have even know it was there, or the peaks beyond it. As we progressed, the mist started to gradually clear and we could get a
Prayer wheelsPrayer wheelsPrayer wheels

There are many prayer wheels along the way
sense of direction and also the scale of the area. Everything here is just so vast from the soring peaks to the deep river valleys, it is like being in a land of giants. It makes you feel very small.

This area all shows signs of glaciation with moraines everywhere, with some glaciers still visible in the higher sections. It gives for a quite stark landscape as it is all covered in lose gray rock, bare of any vegetation higher than a short bush. Still we progressed up the valley, past the Yaks, till we started to ascend again up to Thukla where we would stop for a tea break. The section after this was a steep rocky walk up a large hill that took us best part of an hour and was hard work at this altitude. At the top we were greeted by some monuments to lost climbers on Everest. It is common to see these memorials scattered all over the valley to those that have been lost on the peaks in the Himalayas. It is a reminder to all that it is a dangerous thing mountaineering and that people get lost every year trying to reach
Painted StonesPainted StonesPainted Stones

These are scattered all over the valley and are inscribed with a Buddhist mantra
the top.

After a brief rest, we moved on down another glacial valley to Lobuche, our camp for the night, or at least that was the plan. On our arrival at Lobuche, we realised just how exhausted we were and on dropping our backpacks in the room for the night, the trouble began. Josie was really tired and had a headache which kept getting worse and worse. Not even the mountain remedy of soup (with tons of garlic in) could help her out and the headache got worse and worse to the point where it felt like her head would explode. At this point the situation became concerning, as we knew that altitude sickness was a distinct possibility. This was confirmed when she promptly disposed of the soup she had eaten into a bucket. OH DEAR!

We had little choice at this point but to descend to lower levels. Altitude sickness is a serious business and Josie was really not doing so well, so we hurriedly packed up and started to make our way down the way we had come. As time was getting late, evening was drawing in, and it was getting dark. This did mean that
Andy gets wetAndy gets wetAndy gets wet

and he is loving every minute of it
we got to see the sunset which was nice, but obviously in bad circumstances. Soon it got dark, and the going was slow as Josie was feeling really rough. Luckily Mahesh showed his experience and got us down in the pitch black with no injuries or falling over cliffs 😊 It was a relief to get down and get Josie into bed for some rest, and hopefully for her to get better. The night walk had given us the chance to see the area windstill and lit with stars, we never have seen the polar star being sooo bright! which was a nice bonus to an otherwise bad situation. A good nights rest was in order, and a worrying wait to see if Josie would feel better and what our plan of attack would be for the next day. Our feelings that night where that we would not make it any further and our trek would take a lower route than planned to somewhere else 😞

19-September - Thukla - Lobuche 4910m

So morning came, and Andy lept up at sunrise to take pictures, mainly due to the fact that the lodge had no curtains. This could be the last chance to see the mountain peaks as we still did not know how Josie was feeling and we figured that ascending was not an option. Andy chose to run up the small hill at the back of the lodge to take photos in the clear blue sky, his first mistake of the morning. Such energetic running, first thing in the morning, at altitude resulted in a near coronary arrest. This severely hampered his picture taking abilities and meant 5 mins of huffing and puffing before he could hold the camera still enough to get a shot. Luckily the clouds had been kind this morning and stayed away so waiting was not an issue. The sight of mountains first thing in the morning is a beautiful thing, one which is quite humbling and makes you feel alive (once you have recovered from hill running that is)

Photos taken, we joined in the dining room for breakfast and a chat about what we were going to do. To her credit, Josie had made a good recovery, no longer looked like death and was refusing to give up the trek without a fight. After much discussion, and to all of our surprise considering the events of the prior day, the decision was to attempt the trek to Lobuche slowly, coming back for good if any symptoms reappeared.

So off we set to make the walk along the Lobuche path for the 3rd time in 2 days, slowly and carefully. The weather was kind to us and showed that things were improving as the sky stayed blue all day. On reaching the top of the hill, there was a sense of relief all around, as Josie did not seem to be feeling any of the symptoms of the altitude. It was here we took a long rest again, before continuing on to Lobuche.

We finally reached Lobuche again, and our little group was all filled with a sense of achievement. Joise had conquered her fear of getting sick again, and showed really grit in reaching the place she had been so ill the day before, risking illness again to keep the dream of reaching Everest alive. Now it was a waiting game to see if sickness stayed away. We waited, and it did stay away. We went to bed that night, knowing that the game was still on, tomorrow
Back in timeBack in timeBack in time

Note that the bricks are being produced on the building site, out of local stones.
we would hopefully see Everest !!!!!! (Weather permitting of course)

20-September - Lobuche - Gorakshep 5180m - Kalapatthar 5300m - Dingbuche 4220m

Our assault to Base Camp started at 4am, an unpleasant hour for all but the keenest trekkers, but totally necessary if we were to make it before the clouds spoiled our view. That was, of course, if it was not to be a cloudy day. As it was nighttime and therefore dark, we would not be able to tell if it would be cloudy or not till daybreak, all we could do was hope.

The trek started with a bit of a hitch as we navigated a small stream behind the hostel, by headlight. Due to the frosty rocks, Andy had a bit of a slip and SPLASH, landed feet first into the stream. Luckily the stream was just deep enough to cover his boots entirely, letting water gush in over the top and soak his feet with icy water. BOLLOCKS!!!!

A quick sock-change later, and we were on our way again, this time with a little more caution. The way up seemed like a long and hard slog, probably because it was. In the dark you never feel like you get anywhere, because you have not point of reference to use to see if you are getting any closer. It is a matter of head down so you don't trip over anything, and plod steadily along. Plod we did until it started to get light and we could see our environment a bit better. To our delight and relief it seemed the weather gods were smiling on us as the day started to reveal itself as cloudless. Our progress was halted about half way, as Josie began to get the headache again, and feel a bit sick. Perhaps we were never meant to reach the end, we were thinking. Then Mahesh produced a magic apple and for some reason that sorted her out. Lucky! The long plod continued further and further up till we reached a rocky hill which was the gateway to the valley from where we could see Everest. A short climb later and a massive glacier showed itself with pools of water and rocks everywhere. Absolutely no vegetation in the valley giving it all a stark gray appearance, capped with bright shinning white peaks standing tall and proud overhead. Our
Morning viewMorning viewMorning view

not bad to step out in the morning to be greeted with this kind of view
view of Everest was so very close, but a hot cup of coffee was even closer, which was good as we hadn't had breakfast. Quick drinks stop over, we headed up Kalapatthar to get the view we had walked all this way to see, the view of Everest. Now it was not an easy hike up there, low on energy as we were, and also low on oxygen due to the altitude. It was for this reason, and the rapidly forming clouds that we decided to only go half way up to take pictures, which was probably a good decision as the top was a bloody long way up.

Finally we saw it, the highest peak on the planet, there in front of us. In fact, to be more accurate, we saw the top section of it, as it is mostly obscured by other mountains. Not to take away from it's status, where we stood, the mountains around looked much more spectacular as you could see them full length in all their glory. To get the complete view of Everest you have to go to Tibet, and there was no way we would walk there, we were knackered 😊

This just confirmed that our choice to go veggie for the trek and not risk "stomach issues" was the right one
We took our time here, taking pictures and soaking up the view we had worked so hard to get. Yes we hadn't walked all the way to the top of Kalapatthar, but we didn't care frankly, even if we had, it would have been cloudy by the time we got there. We were just sooo glad we had got here at all and were celebrating our achievement more than the view ahead.

It all downhill from now (we naively thought). It was all a formality from now on, we had reached the goal, it was the highpoint of the trek in more ways than one.

The rest of the days trekking was a blur, retracing the steps we had followed to return to Lobuche for lunch. This time Andy managed to avoid all rivers on the way back and saved ruining yet another pair of socks and soaking his boots. After lunch we set-off on the final let of our mammoth walk for the day to lower altitudes in Dingbuche. There we would rest for the remaining evening, enjoying the best vegetable curry along the trek and contemplate what we had achieved for the day. It is on
Fuel (dung patties) drying in the sunFuel (dung patties) drying in the sunFuel (dung patties) drying in the sun

a common sight in these parts
days like this that you put things into perspective. We could have just spent 8 hours at a desk in front of a computer screen, but due to our choices in life we had been to Everest and back. Looking at it like that, we could never come to the conclusion that a year off was a bad idea, how could you?

21-September - Dingbuche - Phorse 3800m

We woke up this morning feeling slightly strange about the few days ahead of us. After reaching the top, there was a kind of apathy towards walking anymore, we had already done what we had set out to do, so the rest was a formality. The weather was now improving day by day though, with not a cloud to be seen most of the time. This at least gave us a chance to retake some of our gloomy photos from before, with nicer skies. Nothing much to note on this day, except that when we arrived, tired, we found that the nice place we had stayed in previously was fully booked out. Shame, but we moved to another lodge, and as they are all pretty much the same, it was

In some places they mark the way, in others they are just a way of saying "I woz ere!"
not so bad. It was evident though that the season for trekking was now on. Whereas at the beginning we had been the only people staying in some of the lodges, now we were fighting for space with a lodges completely full with people. Seems a couple of weeks here can change the experience totally.

22-September - Phorse - Namche Bazaar

Once again, another day trekking where we had been before. This time though, we had to tackle the large uphill which Josie had complained about on the way down. If it was bad enough getting down, the 2 hours or so it would take to get up it again, would not be so fun. It wasn't very fun either, but not as bad as it could have been as we luckily had to face it first thing at the start of the days walking. Things always seem so much better when you walk them in the morning, probably because you are full with breakfast and rested from the day before.

The days walking seemed longer than when we had done it in reverse, on the way up. This was not helped by a cold which Andy had developed a couple of days before, which was now in full bloom. We arrived at Namche, eventually, and would stay in the Panorama Lodge like we had previously. The place seemed very empty this time, except for Buddist Monks. We later found out that they had come to do a ceremony in their private temple upstairs, which involved a lot of chanting and blowing for horns. It is quite unnerving to hear this at first, especially if you have no idea that it was going to happen. But then it was just the best background noise you can whish for while reading the Dalai Lama's biography - "Freedom in exile". We would definately recommend this one to everyone, specifically though if you plan to visit Tibet. For this occasion the family who was running the guest house cooked masses of meat filled momos and the monks seemed thoroughly enjoying them. We decided to have the Dahl baht that evening - and here is another tip for your trek - this is the best place to try it - it's delicious! The owners were very amused to see that Josie could not get enough of their pickles - she asked
Yak's in the MistYak's in the MistYak's in the Mist

Doesn't have quite the same ring as "Gorillas in the Mist" , does it
3 times for a refill - the little polish girl was coming out there 😊 However, the smell of the Momos did not let us go without trying them. Our now not only guide but friend Mahesh had a cunning plan - he went into the kitchen and roamed around until the opportunity arose to ask for a taster. And they were soooo delicious! Apparently the traditional Momos (a bit like big tortellini, you find them in China as gyosas or in Poland as pierogi) are only filled with meat, all the other options are made only for tourists. This one was definitely not the tourist version - they were full of fresh meat, spices and herbs. Soooo yummy! At that point we thought maybe we should write a food guide for the Everest base camp treck, lol, as that seems to be the focus of our interest.

23-September - Namche Bazaar - Lukla

Today would unexpectedly prove to be the longest and most exhausting day of walking on the trek. It was probably a combination of factors, fatigue, distance covered and a bit of apathy due to it being the end. We retraced our steps all the
If you see these shrubsIf you see these shrubsIf you see these shrubs

... take a deep breath - they smell of cinnamon and apple pie!!! Amazing!
way back to where we had started, but this time in glorious sunshine. The track seemed to look totally different in reverse here, and Andy constantly thought to himself that he didn't remember any of it. We caught our last glimpse of Everest just down from Namche, and said goodbye to the goal we had reached a few days previously.

This day seemed to drag on and on, and we didn't stop for lunch till we had reached Phakdin again. The logic in this was to get our last fix of Sherpa Stew, which we had enjoyed so much on our stop here the first night. It didn't disappoint either, with a massive portion of delicious soup and aloo paratha, yummmy! Lunch was over all to soon and we trudged on to Lukla, which couldn't be too far away now, could it? Well...... clearly it was still far away because it took us bloody hours to get there and all our energy too. It was almost starting to get dark by the time we finally arrived, with the last few km's being like slow torture. We just never seemed to get any closer, and there was always just one more hill. But we made it in the end, and it was like winning the race. Walking through Lukla, we felt like kings and thought in our minds that the people on the streets were all there to greet and congratulate us on our triumph of the mountains. Obviously not true, but that is how it felt.

So the end was here and we had one more night in the cool mountains before returning to the mayhem of the real world. It was funny, but it didn't somehow feel the same as when we had conquered the Torres in Chile. The same sense of achievement was just not there, and the buzz wasn't the same either. Perhaps we were just tired or perhaps it was because we didn't have the same self-reliance experience with camping and all. Also we didn't have the same sense of discovery, but then I guess we never will as Torres was our first, and nothing after will ever feel the same. That is not to say that we hadn't achieved anything because we had, it was a huge effort to get to our goal especially with the altitude and all. Just that it wasn't
The Shinning PeakThe Shinning PeakThe Shinning Peak

at sunset the peak litup gold for a very short time. We were lucky enough to witness it, sadly due to the fact we were decending due to Joise's alititude sickness
the same this time.

We went to bed that night after a few beers, pondering the achievement thing, and waiting for our flight to the madness the next day, a return to the "real" world.

24-September - Lukla - Kathmandu

Awoke early to catch the flight, it was raining. We had breakfast and heard the alarm from the airport which was signalling that flights were coming. So we rushed to the airport.

We got on plane in the wet, praying above everything that it wouldn't fall off the end of the minute runway ending our happy lives. So relieved when we go airborne, and opened eyes again to watch the view. As it was raining we seemed to fly really low with valley sides passing us at eye level which was somewhat disturbing really. Finally, we made it to Kathmandu in one piece, and we felt like kissing the ground on the way out of the plane 😊

That was it, we had been to Everest, the highest peak on the planet. It had been a challenge, it has been beautiful, it had been high. We were well and truly on the way home now, it was finally going to happen sooner or later, we would return to the UK. It is a scary thought, but reality was certainly catching up with us.

We gathered at Maheshe's in Kathmandu once more for our final dinner together. It was great to see his family again as they all are sooo friendly and welcoming. We tried hard to change our tickets to stay a bit longer in Kathmandu and Nepal but Jet airways assured us that all flights are fully booked until November. Shame, as we now were more curious about this beautiful country and hoped to be able to see more of it. Also, we felt sad leaving a new friend behind, who was looking after us sooo well for such a long time. During the whole trek Mahesh patiently answered all our questions about Nepal and it's people, discussed with us the differences of our cultures and the problems the Nepali people faced. Without him the trek would have been only half the experience that it was and we are very thankful for his openness and hospitality and having had such a great opportunity to gather an insight into his world in the
A long way upA long way upA long way up

Normally we steer clear of taking pictures of signs, it always struck us as kinda pointless and a bit sad. But this one, we had to get as we worked so hard for it :)
short time we had there. We are more than happy to recommend Mahesh to anyone who is interested to see the wonders of Nepal - just drop us a line and we will forward you the details.

So once more leaving a previously unknown country we left it knowing that there is always a friend waiting for us. Maybe one day we will be able to return the favour to Mahesh and host him at our place and answer his questions. What would they be? We would love to find out 😊

Additional photos below
Photos: 45, Displayed: 42


Beautiful flowersBeautiful flowers
Beautiful flowers

... in this harsh environment
The Perfect PeakThe Perfect Peak
The Perfect Peak

Everest may be the highest but this one got our vote as the prettiest. You will be hard pushed to find a more astetically pleasing mountain we think
The perfect mountainThe perfect mountain
The perfect mountain

... and the perfect couple

it is at the end of that valley, by the icefall at the end
Ladies and Gentlemen!Ladies and Gentlemen!
Ladies and Gentlemen!

Mr. Mount Everest! (the one in the middle)
We finally made it!We finally made it!
We finally made it!

That is Everest there, in the top right hand corner.
Our Intrepid Guide MaheshOur Intrepid Guide Mahesh
Our Intrepid Guide Mahesh

we would definitly recommend him. If you want his contact details, drop us a message and we can pass them on
View down the ValleyView down the Valley
View down the Valley

Notice how stark it is, with very little in the way of vegitation or colour
Manual work in the fieldsManual work in the fields
Manual work in the fields

No mechanisation here, just hard graft produces crops in this harsh environment
Man carrying woodMan carrying wood
Man carrying wood

Some of the loads you see people carrying are just stupid. We saw a load of these guys carrying the contents of a timberyard up the hill. A new lodge in the making no doubt
We Made it to Lukla!We Made it to Lukla!
We Made it to Lukla!

After what seemed like an eternety
View before takeoffView before takeoff
View before takeoff

You can see just how steep the runway is. This is where the nerves kicked in, please fly.... please takeoff.....
Pikey trailPikey trail
Pikey trail

We missed that one this time although we think we would be now fully qualified for a pikey trail.

14th October 2007

Best post Ive seen on travelblog for months. Splendid!
14th October 2007

Thank you!
Always nice to hear :) *big smiles*
14th October 2007

So good!
Your blog has sparked my intrest to go there! What a story about the "crisps". Very good blog!! Thanx for sharing!
14th October 2007

Hey, it´s beautiful up there... way to go! Great pictures... Any chance you stop by ShangriLa and tell me exact location? :P Just a suggestion :PPP Miss you Thanks for "taking me" with you on this journey... love reading you ;)
15th October 2007

green with envy
extremely jealous, i am a nepalese living abraod and have never been there....
17th October 2007

I got knackered just getting to the end of the blog - quite something , as the trip must have been . .
8th September 2009

Great Blog
Planning to do this trek at the start of November. Great insight as to what lies ahead. Cheers!

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