Travel

New Zealand: Final Days

Alright, friends! My last New Zealand post Finally! I believe it is finally time I finish these posts from my last ultimate trip! So, let’s get started!

The second morning in Lake Taupo we rented bikes from our hostel, The Tiki Lodge, for $15 NZ cash and road along by the lake and just enjoyed the sunshine and view. Slow mornings are important when you’ve been constantly moving from one place to another. It definitely helped prepare us for the afternoon’s activity of choice by decompressing for awhile.

Rapids Jets

Since I got to pick the excursion in Rotorua, Analeise picked one in Lake Taupo! When we were at Huka Falls we saw these high speed jet boats roaring back and forth near the falls so we looked it up and picked a company near us: Rapids Jets! It’s the only white water jet boat ride! It was tons of fun- an absolute blast holding on as the jet boat did high speed turns which got us soaked as it got off the ground! It had us laughing so loudly! Just look at the photos! Overall, my review of this excursion is evenly split. It was a great experience, just a little pricey for what it was! It was about a 35 minute ride and cost $60 USD. Photos were extra but we split them like last time. In a nutshell: I’m glad I did it in New Zealand as jet boats were designed by a New Zealander (Bill Hamilton). Plus, the scenery was absolutely beautiful!

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After this we just lounged around Lake Taupo, ate some $5 chili provided at a sister hostel, and just hung around and enjoyed the sunset with a couple of cold ones.
Not a bad way to end an exciting day. Also, not a bad way to prepare for an equally amazing one!
Spellbound
We’re nearing the end of our trip by this point! We started our drive to Auckland, our last destination, but not before seeing these famous Glowworms I’ve heard so much about! In the Waitomo Valley we chose to go through the company Spellbound and I cannot explain how thrilled I am that we chose so well for this! First of all the specifics: it was $54.57 for 3 1/2 hours in two different caves. The first one is the walking part where the guide shows you the ins and outs of cave formation- stalagmites and that sorta stuff. Then you take a little break, eat a little pastry with coffee or tea, and as soon as you’re finished the real show begins.

 
You board this little boat (there’s no more than 12 of you plus the guide who stands in the back). Slowly your eyes begin to adjust. This is an easy process as no phones, cameras, or lights are allowed while on the boat. It’s just you, what your eyes can see, and your memory. Soon enough, you see them. You see these radiantly glowing hanging..things. Well, they’re actually insect larvae that are glowing due to their bioluminescent traits. (Neat info: this is actually how they eat! Insects are attracted to their light and then get stuck on their sticky lines that hang off of them!)

 
And suddenly…they are everywhere. Everywhere. They are all around you, innocently glowing, living, and being. The only sounds within the cave are your own breathing and the gentle pulling of rope as the boat drifts further in to the cave. The further you get, the brighter it all seems. Even now, months after this moment, I can still see the brightness caused by creatures so unaware of how beautiful they truly are when united.

So this is how they look times 1000000, trust me.

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The ooooonly downside of this tour, I will say, is that they didn’t give us enough time to even attempt to photograph them. I was a bit disgruntled when the guide hurried us into the boat, but at the end he slowed down and offered us/me an opportunity to try. He even gave me specific settings to put my camera in. In the end, my photos didn’t come out great and maybe one day I’d like to do the photographers version of the tour where they give you much more time inside the cave (for much more money). For now, though, I’m fully spellbound with this experience.

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Auckland!DSC07280

And suddenly, we made it full circle! From Coromandel to Hobbitton to Rotorua to Lake Taupo and now Auckland! As this was the only real city we visited on this trip we gave it the least time since we weren’t really too excited by big buildings and shopping districts. We stayed at the enormous Base Hostel and….I don’t recommend it. Well, if you’re still in college and looking to be surrounded by noise and a party scene, that yeah- do it! But we were just looking for somewhere to stay so this placed seemed a little over the top for us. It was $29.07 USD plus $4.60 for the wifi for one night. They did provide us with toiletries, a towel, and a drink voucher at the connecting bar because we paid for the all female room. The bar next door was a funny experience, it seemed like everyone in it was just turning 21 and I’m not accustomed to feeling…old?

But anyway, our last morning. 208a3e80-842f-4e28-8c32-829bdcb5a028

We ate a delicious breakfast at “Scarecrow” and then proceeded to find a park to enjoy the beautiful weather in. Then we found our way to the Skytower ($21.18) which also provides thrill-seekers the opportunity to dive from the highest point of the tower. If you’re interested book ahead of time as spots definitely fill up. I just know Analeise is going to do it one day!

 

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Before heading off to the airport we made one last spontaneous decision to hike up Mount Eden. This was certainly my favorite part of visiting Auckland. It has remarkable 360 views of the land and it’s all quite picturesque.


Learn from our mistake, however, and give yourself plenty of time to actually get down from the hike. We unfortunately were rushed to get to the airport in time and couldn’t find gas stations (seriously, how hard can they be to find?!) so…yeah, let’s just say we weren’t very happy at this point. Oh well, you live and you learn, right?

In the end…our trip was over. Just as quickly as it had gotten here, our 8 day long trip through the North Island was over. We hiked, adventured, drove through windy roads, spent time amongst Hobbits, biked, swam- really everything I could have imagined for my first visit to New Zealand was accomplished. And it was accomplished beautifully. I have some incredible memories of traveling with Analeise- from Tulum to Peru to New Zealand. And this isn’t the end of our travels together- I’m sure there will be more someday! This was a remarkable, spontaneous trip full of enchanting moments that came about thanks to one random Cyber Monday sale.

Last but not least, I am so happy to have a platform that I can share these memories on. If you’re reading this and have read my other posts- a sincere thank you for following me along on this journey. I know I’m not the most consistent blogger, but thank you for sticking with me.

Until next time, friends!

Mary A.

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Travel

New Zealand- Part One

Alright- New Zealand: so high on my bucket list I didn’t think I’d make it this early on. And yet, it was on one Cyber Monday in the early hour of 1 AM that the “Escape Houston” tweet notified me of the tremendous sale: Houston to Auckland, nonstop, on United operated through Air New Zealand for $495. I quickly sent this to Analeise, who you all know as my travel partner in crime and within the next hour we had our tickets booked for March.

March came quickly. Between long weeks of busy flying schedules, little rest at home, the day came to prepare for our 8 day trip (that’s all we could manage with our off days at the time). Now, I won’t lie. I wasn’t actually the most enthused person when the evening finally came to leave to the airport. Being go-go-go can get a little wearing on a body and I, honestly, wished the trip had been planned for a little further down the line. Still, as I settled into that economy seat for a 13 1/2 hour overnight flight excitement started to seep in. The long flight quickly came to an end and there I was…in New Zealand.

Now what to do?

I guessed there would be a lot to do in New Zealand, but I truly underestimated how much there is to see on just the North Island. Therefore, we quickly realized there wouldn’t be enough time to fly on over to the South Island as much as we wanted to. Shoot, there also wasn’t enough time to do everything on the mock itinerary I had planned. I’ll include that one on the last New Zealand post just in-case anyone has more time than we did. I would truly recommend way more than eight days/two weeks/a month. I would say minimum a month each. But, when a deal as good as Cyber Monday’s hits you take what you can get! The rest will have to wait for my next trip over and trust me, there will be a next trip (Right, Kevin?!)

As with Peru I will be writing a couple different posts on this trip including itinerary, costs, specifications, and a photo diary!

So let’s begin!

Day One: Landing in Auckland, Rental Car, and The Coromandel Peninsula 

Analeise handled the rental car for this trip (I’m still not 25 years old). After some debate we decided the medium tier insurance (about $25 USD a day) would be best as 1) we were driving on the other side of the car and 2) we were driving on the other side of the road and 3) it was just the smartest option “just in case”. By the end with fees it came out to $212 per person for 7 days. It could have come out cheaper had we booked the car earlier and booked the insurance before as well, but hey, you live and you learn. We learned.

Driving on the opposite everything from the U.S. sounded scary at first, but I have to admit, it wasn’t horrible. The hardest parts were finding the blinkers, roundabouts, and just rediscovering general distance perception.

On the drive to Coromandel we stopped first for gas station breakfast. Sounds strange but pot pies are so popular here and they are so delicious! ($7.50 USD) We were on the look out for scenic viewpoints and came across this incredible view after a slippery walk up a muddy path. My first “holy jeez I’m in New Zealand” moment occurred at this viewpoint.

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In Coromandel we stayed at the Tatahi Backpackers for $28 USD/NZ39 a night (a person) for a four bed mixed dorm in Hahei. The hostel itself was…adequate. The main area which includes the dining room, kitchen, and sitting area has a cabin-esque feel; the dorm rooms were warm at night and had only two outlets so we had to choose between the fan or charging our electronics. Overall, it was fine for one night. Coromandel is a quiet area, easily walkable, and a lovely beach town.

We arrived too early for check in so we switched into our swimsuits and tennis and headed out to Cathedral Cove. Just the view of the coastline from above is astonishing. Breathtaking. Quickly, the dreamy scenery that I’ve longingly seen in photographs was right in front of me.

LRG_DSC06328LRG_DSC06331LRG_DSC06348DSC06323DSC06336DSC06326DSC06354DSC06358LRG_DSC06400DSC06369DSC06382There are quite a few options for other walks that offer different viewpoints along the trail. We had the scenic point to ourselves for a little while. DSC06474DSC06493DSC06522DSC06421DSC06411lrg_dsc06324lrg_dsc06341DSC06345DSC06343

 

 

We had lunch at the restaurant/bar right next to our hostel called The Pour House. I had the ribs for $21 USD and holy jeez they were good! Pricey but worth it after a long afternoon in the sun!

Then we loaded up on supplies at the only store in town. Also extremely pricey but I managed $15 USD worth of breakfast bars, fruit, tuna, and toothpaste (security at IAH took mine). Once we were stocked up for the rest of the trip we headed towards the beach.

Hot Water Beach

I didn’t want to leave Coromandel without experiencing hot water beach! How often would I get the opportunity to dig myself my own little jacuzzi? The best time to go is the two hours on either side of low tide so we chose the latter. However I didn’t realize three things until I got there:

1) You may dig a hole only to have it be cold water

2) Or you can dig a hole that is scalding water. I mean an unbearable, painful temperature.

3) Digging a big enough hole to fit inside is actually harder than it sounds!

Therefore, we bounced between areas, tested the water, and finally settled on a previously made hole to lounge in.

I didn’t take many photos because my hands were sandy and I was trying to not scald myself the entire time. Overall it was a fun experience! I’m glad I checked it off my list! Oh! And aside from the shovels (we borrowed ours from the hostel) and parking, it’s free!

Overall I spent roughly $28.53 USD and $17 NZ cash (I withdrew $400 NZ which was about $311.99 USD at the airport) the first day, not including the hotel.

 

 

That’s all for now, friends!

If you have any questions about my first full day just comment below!

Until next time!

Up next: From Coromandel to Hobbiton!

-Mary A.

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Travel

Revisiting White Sands, New Mexico

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Hello again, friends!

This is one of my favorite places on this planet. I can only describe the aura of White Sands, New Mexico as filling. I feel full when I’m there.

As soon as I stepped out of our rented family van and started walking up the dunes it didn’t even matter that it was a popular day for the park. It doesn’t matter if it is busy at all because if you just continue walking, and if you get far enough away, it will feel as if you are completely alone there. Suddenly you don’t see any streets nor hear any vehicles in the distance. It is just you and the dunes. Oh, and a sled. Continue reading

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Personal, Travel

2017 Year Review

Hello, all! And  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Welcome, 2018!

I started 2017 in Tampa picturing my future entirely different than I do now as I finish it in Ruidoso, New Mexico. In 2017, as cheesy as it sounds, I loved and I lost. I broke my first bone. I spent more time in airplanes than in my own home. But none of that even matters anymore- none of it. I also explored more of this beautiful world. I met remarkable people. Amazing friendships became even stronger. I spent joyous holidays with my wonderful family. There is a never-ending abundance of happiness that occurred in 2017 and happiness will always be the most important thing to me. Happiness prevailed in 2017. So as I begin to picture another new year my desire to be a better person, a more honest person, and an eternally hopeful person continues to flourish. Along with that, my desire to explore this world only continues to grow.  I hope 2018 is a year of constant travel, growth, and progress. Most importantly, I hope that 2018 is full of happiness, even among hard times (because there will be). I pray happiness continues to prevail in 2018.

One of my favorite parts of the end of year is, of course, reminiscing on the travels and highlights that occurred throughout. Since flying is my job, I can’t picture the number of planes I have been on this year, but I reckon it is a high amount. As much of a roller coaster this year was every single destination I got to explore has helped make this year special. More importantly, every person, place, moment I have had the opportunity to encounter has helped heal me. To be able to say that, I am forever grateful for this year.

I revisited many familiar locations in 2017: Honolulu, Tbilisi, NYC, Tokyo. This year was also full of many firsts for me: Rota, Spain, Washington D.C., Turin, Italy, Metz, France, Dubai, UAE. Of course, as special as every place is to me there are a few key highlights of 2017 that I will hold fondly in my heart and memories. They are moments that comforted me, challenged me, and inspired me (not in any order). (Note: Yall have seen these photos and read about these trips before- sorry!)

1) Hiking Diamond Head and exploring Idar Oberstein, Germany with Per Clausen.

The destinations were amazing, but the company was the most memorable part. Therefor, a huge highlight of this year was getting to know and travel with Per. He is a superb human being with a genuine heart and a contagious smile. I got extremely lucky that crew scheduling put us together for a couple weeks of flying and adventuring. With our daily coffee dates and financial conversations, I always felt happy in his presence. Per made every destination even more memorable. I miss you always, Per!

2) Swimming with whale sharks in Cabo, Mexico.

This has always been high on my bucket list and it finally happened in 2017! We had to swim quite rapidly to keep up with the gentle creatures but my favorite moment is sitting on the deck of the boat and watching them peacefully swim right by me. This was one of the first moments this year that helped push me into realizing my love of environmental management and conservation. I hope one day to re-experience this in clearer water!

3) Sorrento, Capri, Taormina, Italy

Pretty much any layover that gets me in a swimsuit is automatically a favorite of mine. There is just something special about the Italian coast and its islands. I was at a different emotional level on all three of these layovers but I still only remember them for being full of sunshine, friends, and champagne (so how could I be upset about anything else?)

4) Moving to The Heights in Houston

Moving to my own apartment with Analeise was definitely a huge accomplishment for me. Finally I could walk around comfortably in my own home and suddenly I looked forward to coming home after a long trip. Most importantly I needed a change from the place my life was in in June. So I packed up and made a change. There really is a big difference from living in Humble (near the airport) to being more centered in Houston. After two years of living in Houston I get to explore easily, go out, and make friends. Woah.

5) Tulum, Mexico

I’ve written about what Tulum meant to me before. It was right after my breakup so you can imagine that I needed distance and fun more than anything. This was also Analeise’s and my first trip as the dynamic travel duo that we are now. Snorkeling with sea turtles and manta rays will forever be a memory ingrained in my heart. (Also the second push that is helping me realize future career goals!)

6) Budapest, Hungary

Budapest surprised me more than any location this year. How could one city be this remarkable? From the architecture to the nightlife to the scenery and landscape…I couldn’t believe I found a place that had it all (for me). I’m certainly going back and exploring more of Hungary as soon as I get a chance (maybe for my 25th?!).

7) Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

This was one of those layovers that reminded me how much I love the charter flying kind of lifestyle. I never would have thought I’d end up in Malaysia and one day I just…did. From taking selfies with cute monkeys to chasing waterfalls and running away from scary monkeys, Malaysia left me wanting more. 

8) Cusco and Lima, Peru

Yall already know what Peru meant to me. This was my number one travel bucket list item for 2017 and I made it happen. I made it happen despite heartache and despite frustration. That’s all I will say about Peru. I made it happen. (Also just scroll down a little for the full three part posts!)

9) Broke a hand and coincidentally got the holidays at home

*I don’t recommend this in the scenario you want holidays off of work. Being a flight attendant I always worry about getting the days off of work so I can spend time with my family for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. So even though this was a painful experience it was made easier by coincidentally falling on the latter part of the year. Maybe this was the Universe’s way of telling me I needed to spend more time at home?! Either way I listened!

10) Fall out boy concert

I feel like this is the night my year completely turned around. I felt confident again. I felt happy again. Celebrating Analeise’s birthday with dinner, a freaking awesome concert, and a night out on the town was the jump start my life needed again. Coincidentally also the night I met Kevin- Hi, Kevin!

11) Ruidoso, New Mexico

And alas, the last key highlight of 2017. Now. Here. In this cozy two story cabin with my family while WonderWoman plays on DVD. It is half an hour till 2018. We have skiied, hiked, gambled, and played in sand on our family vacation. We will eat our 12 grapes and make our list of intentions for the new year. Then we will wake up tomorrow to our last full day here. What a phenomenal start to another year of life. 

Other happy times: Tokyo Disney, Dubai, first wake boarding experience, Aggie football game, first Diego turn, Mandy’s grad school graduation, etc.

 

 

I don’t know what 2018 will bring. I do know that whatever it is, I can handle it. I know now that I am strong enough, I am brave enough, I am confident enough, I am hopeful enough to handle anything that comes my way. Before anything else, I know I have the support system in my life that will help guide me whenever I am lost.

Finally, I am thankful for this platform that allows me to express all of my silly thoughts and fun travel experiences. I am thankful for you for taking time out of your day to read this. And I hope you continue to join me on this journey.

Happy 2018, friends!

-Mary Anna

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Personal

2017 Summary Part 1

AKA the hardest, most emotional year of my 24 years. When I envisioned the end of this year, I would have never guessed I would be where I am now. Lately I’ve caught myself laughing and saying, “thank God it’s almost over!” Sometimes I feel as if I am actually willing this year to finish faster. I replay the rough moments in my head not as a way to torture myself but as a way to reflect on what I am most proud of: that not only did I make it to the end of this year, but that my heart is intact and my spirit is alive. I am once again so cheerily hopeful about the future.

If you know me or have read some of my posts before then you know this is a big deal to me. I spent the first half of the year fighting to keep alive something that had no chance of recovery. The other chunk of time I spent in denial, feeding this toxicity as if an addiction. Then some other stuff happened like having to move out of my house and then breaking my wrist. Point is, emotionally this year was challenging. Mentally…it was devastating. Well, almost devastating. Because what I am trying to explain is that yes, this has been the hardest year of my life, but 1) I survived it and 2) in reality, a breakup (although as serious as thinking it was the “one”), being kicked out, and breaking a bone were my 2017 hardships. And I am lucky to say that. So if I’m being truthful, yes, this year sucked, but no, it wasn’t nearly as hard in retrospect as I truly thought it was while going through these things. At the time, everything was compromised: my body, my spirit, my health. So I have to ask myself: am I healthy right now as I type this? Yes. Am I whole right now as I type this? Yes. And am I constantly healing, even now as I type this? You’re darn sure I am.

So in a nutshell, it took me 12 months and a few days to finally realize and accept that not only did I survive this year, but I flourished. I am flourishing. I am stronger than ever before and that means all the crummy times in 2017 were somehow…worth it. So worth it.

So what have I learned this year? Well here are just a few things:

1) Date someone kind. Someone who remains kind over time. Someone with a kind heart. When they are no longer kind, leave. You deserve someone kind.

2) Never underestimate how important a good friend, a kickass, empowering movie, and venting are for the soul. (when I told Analeise about everything she took me to see Wonder Woman and it was the best thing for me)

3) As much as relationships are incredible, don’t lose yourself in them. Those goals you want to attain need to come first or you will always think, “what if?” The right person will help build you up and help you reach those goals. They need to be your number one fan, too.

4) When all else fails, get some perspective. For me it was snorkeling with manta rays in Tulum and hiking up mountains in Peru. You will see there is a world outside of heartache.

5) A support system will help move mountains. Trust in the process, trust in the Universe and that it knows what It’s doing, and trust in those around you. Don’t lose that trust that makes you kind.

6) Cry and scream if you need to, but never ever ever lose your faith, whatever it may be. This is all happening for a reason. (I truly believe this)

7) Move on when it’s time. Forgive, not for them, but for yourself, because you need it. Because it is what’s right.

8) One day, without even realizing it, you will be free again.

And you will care for someone again. And they will be kind. And you will once again be kind.

What I consider a really hell-ish year was made so much better because of people like my parents and sisters, Analeise, Edmar, Charlie, Kris, Laura, Sarah, Bubba, Brianda and everyone who let me vent, traveled with me, or just cheered my well-being on.

Like I said, a support system will move mountains and in 2017 it helped me move on from my biggest one.

Until next time, friends

(Which will be a lot happier of a post because it’s about my 2017 travels! Yay)

-Mary Anna

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Travel

Malaysia!

Hello, all!

As I am preparing for my backpacking trip that officially begins tonight (!!!!), I decided to finally post the photos from my surprising layover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia! Another stamp in the passport (two more pages until its full!)! This layover left me with renewed invigoration, refocused determination to explore this world further, and a whole ton of money photos on my IPhone.

The crew and I, of course, visited the Batu Caves. The world’s tallest statue of Murugan was phenomenal to witness on the journey up the stairs (which honestly winded me) to the entrance of the caves. However, honestly, the interior was a bit disappointing as there was quite  a bit of construction going on. I understand all about making a tourist destination more tourist-friendly (and profit-making), but I am concerned about the impact it will all have on the limestone and bats that live among it. I suppose, as with many things, time will tell.

Continue reading

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Personal, Travel

Relearning How to Live: Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

A calm, artistic haven that put me on a new, old path.

I wrote on Instagram that this wasn’t just another trip away from work for me. I could have written this right after arriving home from Tulum, but for me, it was necessary to reflect on the entirety of the adventure instead of just choosing select moments to highlight.

Before booking this trip with my dear roommate Analeise, my relationship fell apart. It was a very, very frustrating, confusing time (as many breakups are). How can you go from planning a life with someone one second to suddenly being forced to reinvent yourself as a single person? That was the overall problem I discovered about myself in Tulum.

I spent roughly a year and a half of working for my relationship. Commuting back and forth to Tampa, fighting to communicate through different, always changing, time zones, and learning how to be flexible with not only my flying schedule but his military one. It was worth it. Until it wasn’t anymore (it still was for me though). My point of all this is, there was my problem. I claimed to know who I was while bending myself over backwards being a partner for someone that needed much more than I could provide that I believe I lost myself in the process. I wasn’t enjoying the process of travel like I used to. I craved stability because I was in love with someone stable. Don’t get me wrong, I do know I love being a partner to someone. I like being the supportive, loving girlfriend and best friend. Do I love it more than I do a wandering life? Do I have to choose one or the other? (I’m writing something on these questions specifically right now.) Tulum introduced (and reintroduced) me to the path that will help me discover the answers I was and am searching for.

Months of constant, honestly sickening worry, anxiety, and fear washed away as I said, “¡Si, vamos!” to a tan man holding a sign for a snorkel excursion after lunch on the beach after biking to the Mayan ruins after sleeping in a bungalow with a big net and no air conditioning (hello, glamping!). The moment I jumped in I was greeted by the most beautiful sea turtle I could have ever imagined (and my first to see free out in the ocean)! The universe listened to my prayer! It was showing me what I needed to see- what I needed to hear. This is where you are supposed to be. In the water, snorkel suctioned onto my face, I witnessed sting rays circling below me. I laughed wildly with our guide that would push me, pull me, grunt and squeal as he pointed to another magnificent creature and to another and another.

That was my reintroduction into this path I am currently living. Whatever the universe brings, be it a new destination, a new love, a new passion, Tulum brought me the joy of embracing it.

“¡Si, vamos!” DCIM100GOPROG0351371.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So now the highlights: Continue reading

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