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Driving to Mexico - we're scared!
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ak_runner
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 25, 2010 1:58 pm    Post subject: Re: Driving to Mexico - we're scared! Reply with quote

We have not taken our Westy into Mexico yet only because it is too long of a trip for the time we would have available. When the time comes we will. We have taken several trips to Baja over the past eight years and never had a problem nor felt unsafe. All of our trips included extensive road travel in a rental car both on the main highways and back country dirt roads. While there are no guarantees if you follow some basic travel rules you should be fine. Keep your valuables secured and out of sight or with you at all times. I agree with others that have responded that you should get clear of the Border as quickly as possible and on the return go through without stopping in the Border towns. The checkpoints have never done more than look at out passports and inspect the trunk but I have seen others get more extensive searches. The main reasons to not drive at night are livestock and truckers on the road. There are many blind curves and hills on Mexico highways, one loose cow at the wrong spot will shorten your trip in a hurry. The highways in Mexico are two lane roads with little or no shoulder to pull off on. Drivers there seem to fall into two categories those that obey the speed limit, usually 60 - 80kph, and everyone else. If you come up behind a vehicle in Mexico and they turn their left turn signal on and you see no place for them to turn it is their way of saying it is ok to pass them. There are many places to camp but few with facilities and those that have are just an outhouse. Camping ranges from free to 3 -7 dollars per night in most areas. Filter your water, carry enough cash, I have yet to find a gas station that will take a credit card there. We just returned on the 15th from two weeks spent around Loreto and saw several Westies while there. One couple we spoke with posts on this forum and were headed home to Toronto after six months on the road. In speaking with them I realized that not only had I communicated with them here on TheSamba but had seen their van in McCarthy, Alaska over Labor Day Weekend. We came across another couple from California driving a nice Westy Syncro with SA grill, 16's on alloys, GoWesty bumpers, swing away spare tire, etc, but they would not give us the time of day. We also met a Canadian couple whom are biking to Panama and stopped at a hotel in Loreto for a break from camping. I think their website is nowheresoon.com. We chatted with them a bit about biking in Mexico as my son and two others are just starting their bike trip from Bellingham, WA to Bogota, Columbia this week, see quehubo.info for their travels.

Go ahead and take your trip, the things we regret most in life are those that we did not do.


[quote

="deides"]well ok we're not scared, my wife is "a bit cautious" Laughing

We will have about a month's time in september and we are thinking of going to mexico for that period of time. Of course, we live in BC, Canada and we always hear a bunch of horror stories about people going to mexico, being kidnapped, carjacked, killed, tickled to death... and god knows what.

I tried telling my wife that a kid-napping is just a kid taking a snooze, but she won't believe me.

So here we are, i told her so many good things about the samba and this lovely community that she asked me to write here and see if in fact there is any major danger to going to mexico.

I've read the basics - camp in recognized campgrounds, don't drive at night.

so what about it guys.. i know many of you go to mexico every year. What are your experiences? Has anything major ever happened to anyone here? Is there a safe place to cross the border? where should we go/not go?

any help would be appreciated!! i would love to go on an adventure... no, we NEED to go on this adventure.[/quote]
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ftp2leta
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 25, 2010 7:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Californio wrote:
My only concern in Mexico is the driving style on some of the highways


Well, now they have toll highway, brand new, almost everywhere and not a soul on it.... only Gringo and some rich Mexican. And they are expensive.

The good new, when travelling one those, your are fully "protected", medical insurance , free towing. They are fast modern highway partially owned by Japanese companies. There is no need to take those if your not in a rush and want to hit the small road, but if your short in time and have a preset destination....

The one between Mazatlan and Guad is now fully open. My friend Ken who is now in Rincon (north of Puerto) just told me today.

Ben
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Love My Westy
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 25, 2010 10:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm on my way to Baja right now, to stay and fish for the next two months. I have been down there about 12 times since 1992 and still don't feel like it is all that dangerous. I'm more concerned about someone breaking into my home in Salt Lake City while I'm down there.

I'm currently waiting for the roads to open after severe damage has occured to Highway 1 during the recent heavy rains.

I think the biggest problem you will have by going in September is the fact that it is the Chubasco (tropical storm) season and you may run into a possible hurricane. I would be more concerned about that than anything. In September it is still very hot down there but the fishing is great at that time. If a tropical storm has occurred you would want to watch out that you don't get Dengue Fever from the mosquitoes.

Baja is great, there are almost more Canadians down there in the winter than there are Mexicans. If you really want info on Baja from other Baja travelers check out: bajanomad.com

I just would watch the weather in September-October. I really recommend going down in the winter rather than the summer unless you really like it warm.

Rich
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Taylor L
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 25, 2010 11:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

hdenter wrote:
Relax!

Mexico is fine once you get away from the border area and the major tourist towns in Northern Baja. My advice is to cross the border with a full tank of gas and all your insurance and paperwork ready.
Good advice for a lot of reasons...

It will also be cheaper if you buy your insurance ahead of time rather than at the border. Lewis and Lewis is good place to get it, and it is excellent insurance. I tested it out by crashing in Guadalajara. They take care of everything for you, and fix your vehicle at top rate shops.

http://www.mexicanautoinsurance.com/

hdenter wrote:
If you plan to go more than 50 miles into mainland mexico you will have to make a monetary deposit to guaranty that you will take your car back out of Mexico and there may be some other paper work that you will have to do.
You will need a visa, if you are going past the border zone. You will need a car permit, and yes you will have to either put down a cash deposit, or better yet IMO is to use a credit card to purchase your car permit, and you don't have to put down a cash deposit.

hdenter wrote:
Also, you do not have to go to the immigration office right there at the border in Mexico. You have three days to get you visa stamped for your trip and you can do that at a deaper office such as the one in Guerro Negro at the border between Baja CA and Baja Ca Sur(north and south). On my last trip we crossed the border at 6 AM and drove strait to San Quintin, about 5 hrs south of the border. On the third day we reached the border between north and south and went to the immigration office there. Much nicer people, no tourists traps and no worries about getting shot by drug dealers.
This law has changed. You now have to get your visa stamped at the border. Don't worry, drug dealers aren't going to vex you.

I have lived in Mexico for 6 years. The stuff you hear about Mexico in the mainstream media in the United States is all hogwash. Even the garbage they spew on major network news programs in the U.S. is based upon gross exaggeration.

Any big city in U.S. is where it is truly dangerous. You need to use common sense and safe practices no matter where you live. But it is exponentially safer in the interior of Mexico than in the U.S. When I lived in Guadalajara (a city of 7,000,000) my house was in a low income area. I would drive into my colonia at 11 or 12 at night, and there would be women walking in and out of the neighborhood in pairs or alone, headed for the market a mile away. They had no fear of being molested. I never saw women doing that in my neighborhood in Memphis. I used to lay in my bed at night and for kicks I would try to guess what caliber of weapon was being used as the shots were being fired throughout the night.

As for all the ridiculous stuff you hear about the drug violence...

Yes it is going on. But the danger to the typical tourist is vastly exaggerated.

The only place I would avoid crossing because of danger would be Juarez. (I lived there for a year incidentally) Actually, I wouldn't be afraid to cross there, but since you are a first-timer you might avoid it.

There is a lot of killing going on with drug traffickers, but it rarely spills over into the civilian arena. It is mostly drug cartels fighting for control of smuggling routes, and different corrupt police agencies support different gangs. Thus, many cops are part of the casualties. The current President of Mexico has sent the military to fight against the drug cartels, and when they shoot it out with the cartels, they are often times exchanging fire with local police officers as well.

However, these smuggling routes are on the outside of the towns. That is where most of the violence takes place. I have now been living in Nuevo Laredo for about 2 years. It is supposedly one of the more dangerous cities. I have no fear living here. I have friends who have lived here their whole lives, and they tell me that they have never seen one single act of violence on the streets.

I'm sure you will have no problem crossing the bridge, doing your paperwork within a stone's throw of the bridge, and then heading through town on your way to sandy beaches.

Incidentally, mine was the Westy that my nephew posted the picture of above, when we were camping on the Pacific. I have been at that same beach without the westy, and my buds and I slept right on the beach without even pitching our tent. We would build a fire and cook our breakfast and supper, and keep a ice chest full of cool beverages. We would shoot the bull until late at night as we watched the stars, then dig ourselves into the sand and snooze the night away.

Come on in. The water's fine...

Taylor
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Taylor L
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 25, 2010 11:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ftp2leta wrote:
La Manzanilla (just north of Manzanillo).
Why! Well, perfect temperature in winter time, now in September it's rain/tornado time!!!

Ha!

That is exactly where the Westy and Xterra was parked in that picture, and where we slept on the beach. It is right in front of the old abandoned Hotel resort that used to be frequented by movie stars from the 50's or so.

Taylor
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ftp2leta
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 25, 2010 11:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I often cross the USA/Canadian border, almost every week or so, men it's always a hassle, i just hate those guys who think that they are gods! They piss me off big time EACH SINGLE time, they make me feel like am a thief, i am not you stupid .... you know what (just to stay polite), i hate the US (yes I do because of THEM) just for that (love the US folks... but that is another story). I'm like 20 mile from the damn border, my friend Hans live 10 miles from the border on the southern side of course, i visit him often but just the fact that i have to deal with those ignorant stupid border guy mean i don't want to go!!! Still I go and deal with their crappy way of life and brainwash stupid "Bush" style thinking. They can't make the difference between an honest hard working neighbour fellow Canadian and a fascist fanatic you know what....

Where was I??? Yea, Mexico as basically no border! Just watch that GREEN /RED light when driving IN. Red meaning STOP. Once in a wile they feel like pushing the RED light button, but just once in a wile....

Where are you from, where are you going, why? Visit my frigging friend you stupid (you know what)... Why, where, how.... Go inside, we will check you out. I'm so piss today i could go on for hours!

Worry about the US way of thinking, not the Mexican one.

Sorry guys but it's a sad fact about YOUR country.

Ben
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Wildthings
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 25, 2010 11:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ftp2leta wrote:
Worry about the US way of thinking, not the Mexican one.

Sorry guys but it's a sad fact about YOUR country.

Ben


Unfortunately you are right. Crossing back into the US is the pits, you have no rights what so ever no matter your citizenship.

That said I have been denied entry into Canada twice over the years. Once because of a very stupid girl friend and once for unknown reasons. At least I can say that the Canadians were nice while turning me back. Another time they gave me a police escort so that I could visit the Canadian side of Niagara Falls at two in the morning instead of turning me back. Very kind.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 26, 2010 8:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Last year my wife and our 3 year old lived in our Westy in MX for about 6 months. We NEVER had any problems with the locals. In fact I would say if you are traveling with kids they are even friendlier. We got nothing but smiles and help from everyone we spoke with.

I would not hesitate to do it again and neither would my wife.

Life is dangerous, especially if you let it slip by you..
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ak_runner
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 26, 2010 12:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cabo and the corridor to San Jose Del Cabo is all about resorts and money, not much of "real" Mexico left there unless you are in San Jose proper or inland side of Cabo. La Paz is much larger yet more traditional Mexico, along the Malecon it is a bit touristy but the rest is just a large Mexican city. Todos Santos is north of Cabo and retains some old Mexico charm even with an influx of American artists and expatriots. The Mexican government wants Loreto to become another Can Cun but it will be years if ever before that happens. It is a nice little town with good beach campsites to be found south of town. There was a nice beach with camping at Juncalito and we were told there is a safe fresh water supply in the area. North of Loreto about an hour or so drive is Bahai de Conception(sorry can't spell) and it has some nice beach camping too. If you are looking for swimming beaches they are harder to find on the Pacific side and more plentiful along the Sea of Cortez. If you dive Cabo is the most accessible but I believe other areas towards La Paz and up to Loreto will be nicer. February and March is when the whales are calving in Magdalena Bay. You can take a couple hour boat tour from Puerto San Carlos to see them. The Bay is a protected area both by law and from the Pacific swells and is very shallow. The down side is Pureto San Carlos, it is not much of a town and poverty is rampant there. It is an easy day trip though. Around the same time Blue Whales are in the Sea of Cortez near Loreto which is another National Marine Park area. Most of the people you will find camping are American or Canadian, they will help you learn the area and where to find water, supplies, etc. Track down the forum member that posts under the name JVD for more on Baja Westy travel. He and his wife are the couple we met on a beach north of Loreto that had been here in Alaska back in September and are now headed home to the Toronto area from Baja in their van.

If you want touristy go to Cabo, for real Mexico try Loreto, La Paz, Mulege, Todos Santos, etc. An alternative would be to do some of both, go down and camp a bit then pop into one of the towns for a day or two. That way you see both worlds and can treat yourselves to a hotel room and real shower, massage, hot tub, etc. In Loreto we stayed in three different hotels prices ranged from $50.00 to $120.00 US. La Hacienda was nice, clean and served good food for $50.00 a night. It has a pool and bar but no hot tub. The Sante Fe is next door and brand new and was advertising rooms at $56.00. It did not have onsite food but they were still working on that. The Oasis is on the water front which is a plus but is a bit older and more dated. It was clean though and has a restaurant and bar with rooms about $65.00. La Mision is the fanciest place in Loreto and was $120.00 a night but has very nice rooms, pool, spa, hot tub, poolside bar & grill plus a more formal bar and dining upstairs. This is the off season so rooms are less and the place was only at 10% capacity. A day or so at a hotel makes a nice break from camping and allows time to get laundry done,etc. We found a laundry about 10 blocks inland form La Mision that did two bags of clothes for 100 pesos. Drop them off in the morning and pick up in the afternoon, just take a translation dictionary with you or be more fluent in Spanish than I am. If you like to fish just go to the harbor and the boat owners will come to you. The guy we went out with spoke English well and we had a great time, took my 7yr old for his first trip.

Pack your van and go, you will have a great time.

deides wrote:
Well well... look at this... last night my wife was looking at travel to mexico sites on the net!

looks like you guys rubbed off on her some. thank you!

So now that she is considering going, we are left with the question of where to go. My wife seems to think she would either like to head to the south end of baja (where the nice resorts are) or mazetland. I think we will have about 5 weeks total for the trip from BC to mexico and back. Are those targets realistic? I figure a week to get to the border from here.

Oh wait.. here's the kicker : I have a 1.6NA diesel.

so... is this even possible? the van's previous owners went to mexico twice with it, but we don't know where they went exactly.

Cheers!

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deides
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 26, 2010 3:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i read the replies and then looked at the average rainfall in certain areas... YIKES!! looks like we will try and re-schedule... september looks bad everywhere as far as rainfall goes.

too bad, we had already told our bosses about taking sept off. We might change that to june/july now, seems better, although it will be hot.


Last edited by deides on Wed Jan 27, 2010 7:17 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 26, 2010 5:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would try to do it in March or April, the winds die down. Just an hour or so south of Santa Rosalia is Punta Chivato, eight miles out on a dirt road is a big hotel, Called Punta Chivato, and a landing strip, and past that is a great beach for camping. You will take everything you want. No services.
Two hours farther south, Loreto, like people say is a great little town. I liked the hotel posted on page two here, a pinkish building called Posada de las Flores http://www.posadadelasflores.com/, lots of good food and drink in Loreto. Super clean little town.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2010 11:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Are you kidding me!! Load up the westy and head down!! We're here right now. Going on week 4 and one more to go. Loving the 80 deg. days and the 75 deg. water!! We're safer here than at home in California.

We'll post a trip wrap up and photos when we get home!!

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!"
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2010 2:44 pm    Post subject: Re: Driving to Mexico - we're scared! Reply with quote

deides wrote:

so what about it guys.. i know many of you go to mexico every year. What are your experiences? Has anything major ever happened to anyone here? Is there a safe place to cross the border? where should we go/not go?

any help would be appreciated!! i would love to go on an adventure... no, we NEED to go on this adventure.


You might find this interesting. They're fellow Canadians. http://www.southboundexplorers.com/

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 27, 2010 2:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sc-surfer wrote:
Are you kidding me!! Load up the westy and head down!! We're here right now. Going on week 4 and one more to go. Loving the 80 deg. days and the 75 deg. water!! We're safer here than at home in California.

We'll post a trip wrap up and photos when we get home!!

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!"


hey sc-surfer nice to hear you guys are having fun. My syncro crapped out and that took us out of the running, but next year we'll be there for sure. post up some pics to get the OP motivated
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 29, 2010 8:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

We have a slow connection here but I will post up a full story with pics when we get back. Some time next week.
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 29, 2010 8:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know it's a little different that driving, but I've got an internet acquaintance that biked (on her recumbent trike) from Portland OR all the way down through the CA, Mexico, and into one of the other South American countries (can't remember which one right now, maybe Guatemala??) and she said the people are so friendly, especially in the little towns.

She had so much fun, she then went to Australia and New Zealand and loved that so much, she's currently in in SE Asia!

You can check out all kinds of people traveling by bike on the website crazyguyonabike.org, I think it is. Look for my friends diary called "Myrtle the Turtle" there. Her name is Sylvia.

Anyway, the perspective is the same basically even if the mode of transportation is different.
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 29, 2010 11:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not to take this thread farther off course but my son and two friends have just started a similar bicycle trip. They took the ferry on Jan. 14th from Whittier, AK to Bellingham, WA and are pedaling to Bogota, Columbia. Right now they are in Seattle, see quehubo.info for their blogs, etc. They will be going through Baja to LaPaz then taka a ferry to the mainland. If anyone reading this has recommendations for good campsites, fresh water access, etc, in Baja I would love to hear them. I know some from our travels there but the more the better.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program of Vanagon travels.

silverlunace wrote:
I know it's a little different that driving, but I've got an internet acquaintance that biked (on her recumbent trike) from Portland OR all the way down through the CA, Mexico, and into one of the other South American countries (can't remember which one right now, maybe Guatemala??) and she said the people are so friendly, especially in the little towns.

She had so much fun, she then went to Australia and New Zealand and loved that so much, she's currently in in SE Asia!

You can check out all kinds of people traveling by bike on the website crazyguyonabike.org, I think it is. Look for my friends diary called "Myrtle the Turtle" there. Her name is Sylvia.

Anyway, the perspective is the same basically even if the mode of transportation is different.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 05, 2010 7:41 am    Post subject: Canadians hijacked in Mexico Reply with quote

From Frank Condelli's post
http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/Syncro/message/44805

Travel problems in Mexico - Important - please read and pass on

Folks, I am sending the three messages copied below because you all need
to know about this....OK, things in Mexico are starting to look bad.

From: jm vanderbyl <[email protected]>
Subject: HIJACKED!!!!
Date: Sat, 27 Mar 2010 11:14:02 -0400

BAD NEWS We have been hijacked & have nothing left but the clothes on our
back! THIS IS NOT A JOKE!!!
We were leaving Rosies in Cd. Victoria and were about 1 hour away near
the km 57 where the road splits & separates for about 1 mile or 2---near the
lake. -The road was blocked and bandidos with guns and machine
guns threw us out of our vehicles.

ps. There was another Canadian couple who got hijacked yesterday 15 kms.
south of Victoria. Brian & Connie from Ontario. The police contacted us
so we had supper with them & offered advice & support. There are now 6
Canadians stranded in Victoria!!!
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 05, 2010 4:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It looks like there's some updates there, 6 Bandidos in custody and they've recovered the vehicles.
It's very unfortunate, as they are very isolated incidents and it paints a poor picture for the country.
I agree with many here, safer than Canada and the US in my opinion.
I drove at night often to avoid the heat. If there's animals on the road many times others will flash their lights to let you know so watch for that.
I'd keep going past Mazatlan if I were you, it's not as nice as places south of there. There's a great little fishing village 1 hr north of PV where you can camp on the beach among the palm trees. Great friendly town, and PV is way up my list of favorite place down there.
I spent 18 months travelling all around Mexico in the 1.9. The only sketchy place I didn't feel as comfortable was Tapachula, the Pacific entry into Guatemala.
I also picked up the occasional hitcher at night, you can tell the working folk for the most part. As many said I agree with the hotel ideas, many times they were actually cheaper than the campgrounds. You'll meet many Canadians travelling along the way. One other way is to setup a caravan at the border until you're deep in, but I've heard that working against people as well. Don't wash the van, that's a great tip. Blend in. Dress like the locals, follow your gut.
I crossed at Nogales at 2 in the morning, got to the checkpoint in the dark, woke up the copy guy in his shed to get copies of docs (you can do this first, saves time.) By the time the sun came up I was pretty deep inside. Arrived in the fishing village north of PV 10 PM.
Driving at night should be avoided on heavy truck routes though, windshield gets really dirty and hard to see, and some of those guys drive like madmen.
There's a great insurance broker in Chilliwack of all places with super rates. $200 for a year. Any questions feel free to fire them over.
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'84 Westy 4 spd previous
'75 wing, watercooled boxer 4 motorcycle.
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