BOLIVIA

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DAY 713 COPACABANA – LA PAZ

START 8:10 FINISH 18:30 (14/02/17)

DISTANCE 138KM RIDE TIME 8H41

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Didn’t think there was much between here and La paz. So went out and had some breakfest before I left. It was a really nice sunny day. It was a bit of a climb out of Copacabana. On the way up Breakfest sudenly hit me thought I might be able to make it to some trees ahead. Then thought better of it making a emergency stop. And jumping down in to a culvert that went under the road. After that I was fine for the rest of the day. It turned out to be a really beautiful ride.

From the first hill you were up high and could see lake Titicaca on both sides of the road. It was a really beautiful view. The water was still and you could see lots of snow on some close by mountains.bolivia-2-2017-02-14-056

After been up high for a while we came down to the lakes edge and the road came to a end. To get across I had to pick a barge to get across. I wasn’t thinking and didn’t pick very well.

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I didn’t realise this until we were under way. We had a big truck onboard and we were rocking from side to side.

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The barge was really creaking and I could see the wood moving. I didn’t have a life jacket and when I reached the other side I was very relived…I was still left a little shaken. It was a pretty terrifing crossing.

After the crossing I fueled up for another hill climb withna bit of lunch. Once I was over that hill it was pretty much flat for the rest of the day. Good part riding close to the lakes edge. Must have had a tail wind becouse I was moving quite fast. Having done only 60km in the morning I mannaged 80km in the afternoon. The two lane highway is been turned in to 4 lanes. Lots of road works to negoaite. Out side La Paz they had started building new towns beside the highway.

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It got to the point there was nowhere to camp and I couldn’t find any hotels and I just kept getting closer and closer to La Paz. I stopped at the first hotel I came to………..looked flash……….it wasn’t but may once have. 70 Boliviano ($10) it was ok. Right on the outskirts I was in a pretty bad part of town. I had to venture out for something to eat. On the way back after my Hamburger and chips I stopped at a shop to get a drink. This really drunk guy came up to me and wanted to fight me. The owner knew the guy and told him to go away by name. He would leave then come back again. His other drunk friend was trying to get him away. I just ignored him. Then a old guy came into the shop and after telling the young guy to goaway……he pushed the old guy. I have lernt and didn’t intervine this time. When the drunk guy moved out onto the road. The footpath was clear and I just bolted for the hotel.

DAY 714 LA PAZ – LA PAZ

START 9:00 FINISH 11:15 (15/02/17)

DISTANCE 17KM RIDE TIME 1H49

It was a pretty good idea to stop just short of La Paz. What looked like a easy 9km ride to the Casa De Ciclista turned out to be a 17km 2 hour struggle as I tried to pass through busy grid lock streets. To get to the main road that drops down into Lapaz I had to push my bike through the market. I latter herd other cyclists take the cable car.

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Once I got down into the centre of La Paz The roads were blocked with 1000’s of marching protesters. The Coca farmers had come to town to protest the introduction of regulation. They set up a tent city and camped out to the weekend. Things got a little out of hand on Sunday and Teargas was used.The Casa De Ciclista is really well located just off the main road right in the centre. Cristian and his family have kindly given cyclists a apartment to use.

After settling in. I went out for a bit of a orintation walk around the centre. La paz is very hilly and at 3800 meters it can be quite tiring moving around.

DAY 715 – 727 LA PAZ REST DAY

The Casa De Ciclista is a very comfortable and chilled out house. There was always at least 7-8 cyclists around. A real mixture of people from, France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Argentina, Japan and Eva from Australia. She is about to start her cycle touring career here in Bolivia. She is starting from scratch and is on a bit of a budget. I have been helping her make some new panniers and get her $70 bike ready for the road.

We had two small dinner parties this week, that were fun. The first was for Cristian’s Birthday and the second was a bit of a pot luck dinner that was just as fun.

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Sunday morning I tried to get out early, catching the cable car up to Al Alto to visit one of the worlds largest flee markets. Had great views of La Paz on the way up. The market was huge. It didn’t take long to get tired out. After a hour the cowards swelled and it was time to go home. For my troubles all I ft with was a small kitchen knife and 3 Avocados…………bolivia-5-2017-02-24-014

Monday was a day of protests in La Paz. It was a good idea to keep out of the city centre. There was a constant sound of large fireworks going off and lots of chanting of anti government slogans.

 

It was a whole wehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3Vlkx3TyIs&feature=youtu.beek before I finally did anything remotely culture with a visit to the Contempary art museum. Housed on 3 levels in the old Lebanese club. The building itself was just as impressive as the art it held.

I have ended up staying long enough to be in La Paz for the carnival. It involves lots of people dressing up in costume,drinking and spraying each other from head to toe in foam. Fireworks are also going off 24/7

On Tuesday Dominique and I went out and watched the second Parade of the Carnival. It started just after midday and went for nearly 6 hours. we soon discovered Gringos were fair game when it came to getting sprayed with foam.

we ended up having so much fun. we were able to roam freely up and down the parade route. Some of the dancers are so energetic and when they are encouraged by the crowed. It just whips them  up into a real frenzy

From time to time the performers stop and take a break. we are then able to mingle. On one occasion. One of the performers wanted to give me a dance lesson to the amusement of the very appositive crowed. wasn’t very good. Lot of fun.

A lot of time and effort has gone into a lot of the costumes.

It’s hard to see how the dancers and keep going for so many hours. But they do with so much enthusiasm.

The Carnival had  such a great friendly atmosphere.

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DAY 729 LA PAZ – PATACAMAYO

START 7:30 FINISH 14:00 (01/03/17)

DISTANCE 98KM RIDE TIME 6H08

After two weeks. I finally left La Paz. To get out of the valley I made my way over to the Gondola. I had to pay double to take the bike……….for less then a dollar it was well worth it with the time and effort I saved.

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I had a bit of trouble getting off. The doors didn’t open fully and the bike got caught half in and half out of the moving gondola.. Having to reverse the bike out of the gondola didn’t help either. The bike fell over. I fell over backwards as I tried to franticly drag the bike clear of the moving gondola. It wasn’t a very grausias exit. No harm was done.

It wasn’t till I finished for the day that I realised the first 4km I cycled brought up a bit of a milestone for the trip of 30 000 km cycled. Glad I made it within the two year anniversary which will come up in 5 days time.

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It was a lot straight ford getting out of La Paz then getting in. It didn’t take long to find the main road south and then it was pretty plain sailing on the Alto Plano. Nice and flat., the only difference you are at 4000 – 3800 meters. I pushed my self along at a good pace. After a few hours I could feel the altitude with a bit of a saw head. It was a very cold day on the Alto Plano. It is very exposed. In the morning we had two small rain showers. After lunch it was a bit more persistent. When I reached Patacamayo. It was only 2pm and raining. Was going to wait for the rain to ease before continuing. I had nearly done 100km and didn’t want to over do it first day back. I was wet and cold so I found a hotel.

DAY 730 PATACAMAYO – ORURO

START 8:30 FINISH 15:30 (02/03/17)

DISTANCE 129KM RIDE TIME 6H46

Yesterdays ride left me Aching all over with tiredness. I was left pretty exhausted as well. Listening to the rain gave me a good excuse to stay a little longer in bed. The late start didn’t stop me having another bumper day. I got straight back in the zone and smashed out 129km. Had planed to camp outside Oruro, as I got closer to Oruro. I just pushed on.

Earlier in the day I passed the seane of another road death. The body of a man was lying on the side of the road. Looked like he had been hit by a car. This is the 3rd time in south America I have come across such a gruesome seane.

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Not far down the road I came across a mass memorial for some other road victims.

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I passed through no shortage of towns. They were never more than 4 – 5km apart. They were like ghost towns. There was no one around. They were so quite 

DAY 730 & 731 ORURO REST DAYS

Oruro is a mining town. This was evident when I visited the church on the side of the hill. Inside the church was a shrine for miners and more surprisingly was that inside the church was the museum Mineria. What a great living museum.

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From the back of the church were two old mining tunnels that went for km’s deep in to the mountain. Down in the mine there were lots of mining relics from nomadic drills to the old narrow gauge tracks for the trains. Inside the mine. The miners have a shrine to the Mining saint. For good luck they leave anything from cigarettes, cans of bear, Coke and money for good luck

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Attached to the church was another museum. It was a real mixture with ancient artefacts to modern masks used in the Carnival.

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I haven’t been too many museums of late because they are normally to expensive and the cost adds up. A visit to Simon Patino’s old mansion was well worth it. Simon Patino was one of the richest men in the world and owned all the tin mines in Bolivia. His old house was very grand.

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After lunch I took a colertivo up to the top of a nearby mountain for a panoramic view and a visit to the huge statue Virgen del Socavon.

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DAY 732 ORURO – PAZNA

START 9:00 FINISH 14:00 (05/03/17)

DISTANCE 81KM RIDE TIME 4H13

After my little break in Oruro. This morning I continued South towards Uyuni. The road straight away took a turn for the worst. Going from a duel carriage way down to a single lane with a small shoulder and more of a broken seal. Been a Sunday morning traffic was light. I did have to battle a bit of a head wind. To the left of the road was the mountains and to the right was the Largo Uru Uru which I ended up following for most of the day. Past lots of mines along the way.

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At PooPo there was a sulphur mine, which had a very distinctive smell. It was a late start early finish. Still managed 80km. The last 5km I got drenched. I came across some Auga Tamales just out side Pazna. What better way to warm up. I went in and for 10 Bolivianos got my own private tub. After a hour I was smelling like sulphur and the weather had cleared and I thought about cycling on. I had asked to stay at the Thermals and it wasn’t a problem. It was carnival time in Pazna and the attendants had been drinking. So I thought I’d better not. Imagined they would be partying all night. I didn’t get far, Next to the thermals was a big overland truck camped up for the night. They were a Austrian couple. I spoke to them and they advised I should camp here the night. Further down the road where they had come from. There had been heavy hail and sleet.

So I ended up camping behind there truck. Got to see my first real sun set in a long time. That evening the Austrians invited me over for drinks and nibbles. Bottle of wine later. I was ready to sleep well. The loud music and the strobe lights from the festival didn’t stop me sleeping.

DAY 733 PAZNA – RIO MULATOS

START 7:15 FINISH 16:45 (06/03/17)

DISTANCE 156KM RIDE TIME 7H51

The Austrians were again very good to me, giving me a fresh cup of coffee before I left. Cycled first into Pazna…………..there was no sign of yesterday carnival. It was hard to believe there had been such a big party. I cycled straight through. I had time to make up after finishing a bit early yesterday and a bit short on km I needed to push on. I cycled 40km before stopping for breakfast in Challapata. I lucked out on the breakfast. An uninspiring hamburger and a cup of coffee. This years Dakar rally must have come through Challapata because there was loads of advertising. On the way out of town I was distracted by a band playing. When I got to the plaza there was a bit of a march by from local school kids and some other adult groups. I watched the parade and then cycled on.

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When I got to sevaruyo I found a large town which was once probly very prospers. Now resembled a run down ghost town. There were very few people around…………..i could only find one shop. That had very little to offer.

It was a long old day after I reached 110km I started to hit the wall. I was out of energy…………but I pushed on, but only slowly. I finished the day with a very satisfying 156km. I was out in the middle of nowhere and found a nice camping spot just off the road. After setting up camp I watched a very nice sunset surrounded by distant mountains, some with snow on them.

DAY 734 RIO MULATOS – UYUNI

START 7:15 FINISH 12:00 (07/03/17)

DISTANCE 84KM RIDE TIME 4H13

This morning when I jumped out of my tent. I was greeted by beautifully sunny morning. It wasn’t cold. It wasn’t warm. The light was fantastic. The andies were looking sharp. As I got closer to uyuni it was becoming more desert like.

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35Km from Uyuni I got a glimpse of the Salur de Uyuni salt lake and as I cycled into uyuni I was passed by convoys of 4x4s filled with tourists heading out to the salour. First impressions of Uyuni was that it was a bit of a dump. As I got closer to the centre things improved.

DAY 735 UYUNI REST DAY

This morning My friend Eva arrived with her bike at 5:30am on the bus from La Paz. Eva is going to join me for the next couple of months on the next leg to Santiago. Eva has never been cycle touring and is pretty much starting from scratch. She is been very brave to drop herself in the deep end. I first meet Eva in the hostel a few months ago back in back in Huaraz Peru. We talked a lot about cycle touring. I also invited Eva to join me if she wanted. It must have captured her imagination because a short time later Eva contacted me saying she was keen to join. So for the past few months I have been helping Eva get organised on a very low budget. We got a $70bike in La paz off another traveller and then gave the bike a good reconditioning for $50. We all so made 4 new panniers for about $50. Which turned out really well. Collecting surplus to requirement gear off fellow cyclists and travellers has helped keep the price down.

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I was hoping Eva would have been able to cycle out of La Paz with me. But unfortunately due to a hiking accident a few months back where she sprained her ankle and had to be taken off the mountain on a donkey. Eva had to stay behind for some physcio. She is all rearing to start tomorrow. But we will be starting slowly. With only 1-2 hours of cycling a day at the beginning. Hopefully it won’t take long to get her up to speed.

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It looks Uyuni is the place to pick up a second hand knife.

DAY 736 UYUNI – TRAIN YARD

START 14:00 FINISH 15:00 (09/03/17)

DISTANCE 5KM RIDE TIME 0H45

We had a pretty relaxed morning getting the bikes ready and bit of last minute shopping and then after some lunch………….it was the moment of truth. Few people asked me if Eva could ride a bike and I said …………I don’t know. So I was very relived to see Eva with a loaded bike cycle off like a natural. We only had a short cycling day. 5Km out to the old Train Cemetery on the outskirts of town.

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Which is full beautiful old steam engines which are sadly rusting away. It is a fantastic open museum and a great place to Camp. We set up a tent on the flour of the open cabin of a old steam engine. It was a great spot and one of the more interesting places I have camped.

We had some great light for taking photos…………before a good storm rolled in. we could see a mini twister in the distance and plenty of lighting.

We were lucky enough to be able to cook diner and watch the sunset before the rain came. For dinner we cooked a very yummy lama stew.

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DAY 737 TRAIN YARD – UYUNI

START 11:30 FINISH 12:30 (10/03/17)

DISTANCE 6KM RIDE TIME 0H39

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We had a good first night. Welcome to cycle touring. There was a lot of rain and strong howling wind blowing through. With Eva only been able to cycle 1-2 hours a day. We are keeping things pretty relaxed. We were in no hurry this morning. We cooked some breakfast and slowly packed up. Eva’s tyre had gone down, so she replace the tube.

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By mid morning mass tourists started arriving, so we made a move…………..a whole 6km. Cycling 3km back to town and then 3km out on the highway South East towards Topiza and the frontier with Argentina. The Alto Plano is very flat and exposed. finding a good place to camp can be difficult. We managed to find a spot just off the road behind some piles of dirt. It was still early in the day when we stopped. So I ended up walking back to town for a few hours. Picking up some more supply’s for the road ahead. In the evening it got cold. While we were cooking dinner, we had a small camp fire going as well. I’m Eating very well with Eva on board. I don’t think pasta every night was going to cut it for her.

DAY 738 UYUNI – NOEL MARIACA

START 11:00 FINISH 15:00 (11/03/17)

DISTANCE 30KM RIDE TIME 2H41

We had another easy morning and a late start. We made good progress on a newly sealed road. Hardly noticed the gradual climb we were doing. Parts of the Alto Plano were covered in water. We had to push on to find a good camping spot.

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We started to encounter a lot of road works. Unfortunately the sealed road came to a end. After 30km we reached the road workers camp. We asked them to camp…………they said no.

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Near the camp was a old railway town. We asked there and ended up camping in the railway workers compound which seamed abandoned and in ruins.

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DAY 739 NOEL MARIACA – CERDAS

START 9:00 FINISH 15:40 (12/03/17)

DISTANCE 44KM RIDE TIME 4H10

We started the day with a beautiful morning. The moon was just going down as the sun came up. From the junction we took the dirt road in the direction of Tupiza. It was dry and hard and wasn’t to bad to cycle. Tho some parts got a bit sandy as we cycled past some sand dunes. There were lots of Lama wondering the Alto Plano. After lunch we had done 17km which was enough for Eva. We were very easily able to get her a ride with a 4×4 to the next town. I cycled on and that is were I meet her a few hours later. Just as well Eva hitched a ride because the road deteriated some what and would have been challenging for her. Don’t want to break her in the first week.

I arrived in Cerdas, another railway town around 3:30pm. Eva had a posse of new friends to keep her company while she waited for me. By chance we asked a local about a place to camp and he arranged for someone to come down at 5:30pm and open the school for us. We weren’t expecting to be given a class from to sleep in for the night. Just as well because once the sun went down it was very cold outside.

DAY 740 CERDAS – ATOCHA

START 7:00 FINISH 09:40 (13/03/17)

DISTANCE 26KM RIDE TIME 2H07

This morning I left Eva behind to catch the bus as unfortunately her ankle is playing up. The road is under major construction. In a years time it will be a supper highway. I only cycled 10 km before there was a major change in the scenery. I found myself cycling down the very sandy road which was in the middle of a river bed. Either side of me was beautiful scenery. I came across an old mining town………..now in complete ruins. I had a look through the cemetery near by. Looks like there had been some grave robbers about. One of the coffins had been broken into. I arrived in Atocha in good time…………We checked into a hotel. Atocha is a real dry desert town.

DAY741 ATOCHA – ATOCHA

START 12:00 FINISH 14:00 (14/03/17)

DISTANCE 4KM RIDE TIME 0H50

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Today we had a late start………..Check out was at 12pm. We then followed the railway line out of town. The road ran up the dry river bed and was very sandy and the locals recommended against it.

In the end we cycled for nearly an hour before we found a lovely spot to camp next to the railway line. It was very hot so we set up a tarp for some shade and relaxed for a few hours before having a small camp fire and cooking some dinner.

DAY 743 TUPIZA REST DAY

Tupiza is a nice little town, slightly touristy as its probly the first main stop after crossing the border from Argentina, been only 90km away. After spending the morning interneting in the hotel…………I ventured out for a look. Ended up eating cheap but good ice-cream. In the evening we caught up with Adrian and his friend who also arrived yesterday. We went for asada. Which is a Bolivian bbq. The selection of meat was so good and tasty. Lama, Beef and touristso sassuages.

DAY 744 TUPIZA – YURUMA

START 9:45 FINISH 13:00 (17/03/17)

DISTANCE 42KM RIDE TIME 2H58

Eva is having another bike free day. So I Cycled on with out her. It was Very scenic leaving Tupiza cycling down valley. Had to Pass a tunnel along the way. Shame they hadn’t left access to the old tunnel next to it. Would have been a lot safer.

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Stopped for morning tea at a very nice viewing point. Had great views and a train came across the bridge just at the right time. After 30km we left the valley and started climbing. I arrived in Yuruma at 1pm. This time I was waiting for Eva to arrive. I had said 2pm………..but was early. Eva arrived 15 mins later, which was perfect. We then cycled off in to the village.

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We found a covered stage next to the railway yards which was perfect to camp. Or at least we thought. You will hear about that later. Just after arriving………..we saw the funniest sight. A local in a pick up was driving past. The next minute it came to a sudden stop and one of its front wheals started rolling off down the road. We set up camp and I had a little look around the rail yards. Which as usual the station was all locked up and everything else was in ruins.

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Turned out the biggest day in the town was happening tomorrow with the annual 2 day fair. People started turning up to set up for tomorrow, When we first arrived they were just installing some flood lighting for the stage. We think they left them on for us on pepuse. When it was time to sleep we just switched them off at the switch board.

DAY 745 YURUMA – MOJO + 16KM

START 8:30 FINISH 13:00 (18/03/17)

DISTANCE 33KM RIDE TIME 2H53

What a terrible nights sleep. Our great spot turned out to be not so great. Around 10pm we were woken by a group of drunk men. They switched the flood lights on because they were connected to the room under the stage where they were going to continue drinking till 4am. Then at 5:30 am people started setting up for the festival. We got out before thing got into full swing. We have a bit of a routine now.

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I cycled the first 17km to Mojo alone, while Eva took a collative missing out the steep part. It seams to be working well. I meet Eva in Mojo. Before leaving the small town I had a little walk around. Mojo was another railway town. Looked like the station had been closed and it was in complete ruin.

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From Mojo the road was a lot flatter and more easier to cycle. The surrounding landscape was a desert. In the afternoon we looked for somewhere to camp and found a great camping spot among the ruins of some old a banded farm buildings.

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That evening we had a campfire and roasted some potatoes. Once the sun had set we had a fantastic view of the stars. We were lucky enough to see a number of shooting stars as well.

DAY 746 MOJO + 16 – VILLAZON

START 8:00 FINISH 12:00 (19/03/17)

DISTANCE 17KM RIDE TIME 1H35

Bolivia is nearly done. This morning we just had a short ride up to the border town Villazon. Will have two nights here before crossing over to Argentina. It was a nice easy flat ride into Villazon…………once we arrived it was a bit more difficult finding a decent hotel. Ended up settling for a pretty basic but clean hotel with no wifi. Villazon is a pretty boring town………with not much to offer. We were clean to have clean cloths……..only to discover thee is no laundry matt in town………….clean cloths will have to wait to Argentina. Haven’t seen a snake for a long time. This morning we saw a small one. So we know they are around again. Desert is probably full of them.

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DAY 747 VILLAZON REST DAY.

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