Bhimashankar trek Part II: Descent via Ganesh Ghat!

Bhimashankar 46
The gang enters Dark Forest of Bhimashankar!

This is the second part of Bhimashankar trek series.  To read Ascent via Shidi Ghat, click here -> Part I.


Quick Recap: We had started off from Khandas at 0830 hrs and climbed up by the Shidi Ghat to reach Chahacha Aamba at 1145 hrs. After a quick brunch, we started the most exhausting part of the trek: The Mungi Ghat!

Bhimashankar 60s
A map of Mungi Ghat

Ants are called Mungi in Marathi. There are several explanations behind the interesting nomenclature of this place but I ‘ll mention the two most believable of the lot-

  1. The zig zag trail over the steep terrain makes people climbing the plateau on a clear day look like Ants from the stall.
  2. The steep terrain takes the wind out of the fittest person’s sails and reduces the climbing pace so much that it’s (warning: exaggeration ahead) equivalent to an Ant’s speed!

The initial part was a gently inclined rocky trail through the dense forest which soon transformed into a narrow zigzag trail snaking through a carpet of stunted grass with an odd shrub here and there.

Bhimashankar 47s
Top: Omkar surveys the broad trail at the start of Mungi Ghat; Bottom: We take a break from the steep climb

The climb is followed by a south to north traverse, which is one of the most enjoyable parts of the trek if the weather is right, which is what we got!

Bhimashankar 50s
Top: Clouds drift in to envelope Padarwadi; Bottom: Manish & Shardul share a light moment during the traverse

The trail occasionally transformed into a stream due to the numerous mini waterfalls intercepting the path.

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A waterfall on the trail

With the south-bound winds carrying tiny droplets that pricked like needles, the visibility soon dropped to less than 20 metres as we moved into the clouds and at 1315 hrs, we entered the hallowed forests of Bhimashankar.

Bhimashankar 54
Manish climbs into the clouds

The Dark forest (Harry potter inspired name 😝) is so dense that raindrops trickle down the tree trunks instead of falling directly on the floor to form streams & puddles along the trail.

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Entering the Dark forest!

Even the precious little sunlight that seeps through the foliage takes on a green hue through the fog, changing shades with increasing distance.

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The green hued sky and the hauntingly beautiful Dark forest!

The trail led us out of the forest and took a U-turn along the cliff edge. The valley below looked mesmerising with the vast expanse of fog filling the gaps between trees and not a man or man-made structure in sight. With some more distance to go, we couldn’t afford spending more time and had to carry on with our march to the temple.

Bhimashankar 60
The trail after the U-turn over the cliff

Another hill comes into view after the U-turn and the trail morphs into a boulder climb with mid-sized rocks covering the trail until a left turn leads you back onto a mud trail. Abhi told us that the pond (& level ground) was barely 100 metres from this point which got us all pumped up and we literally ran over the muddy terrain to finally reach level ground. And then we got stumped.

A 5 feet high fence erected on a foot high concrete boundary, stood between us and the pond! Abhi looked just as perplexed. He didn’t remember seeing a fence or even the signs of one under construction, the last time he came here. I checked the map and the trail went through the point where now stood the fence!

We looked around the perimeter of the fence but all we could see was the famous whiteout of Bhimashankar. The rainfall and fog had reduced visibility to less than 15 feet and the water running through the red soil had washed off any signs of a trail.

It was close to 1400 hrs. We needed to make a decision and make it quick. We could either spend time looking around for a trail but that could take upwards of half an hour OR try and jump over the fence and hurtle straight ahead from there.

We decided to do the latter. Shardul volunteered to climb the fence first and check if there was a gate nearby. The part monkey-part human hybrid that he is, he was over on to the other side in a moment. He returned after a couple of minutes with a shake of the head. We looked at each other and we knew what had to be done. Off came the bags and shoes and we climbed over. I was the last person to climb the fence and just as I was preparing to jump over to the other side from the top of the fence, emerged 4 villagers from the bushes on the left.

Imagine the look on our faces, when they said the only way to the temple was from the bushes they had emerged from! We contemplated climbing back over the fence but then thought better off it. If there was an enclosure, surely there must be some way to exit it! And even if there wasn’t, the old trail went through it. So if there wasn’t an exit, we ‘ll climb over just like we had climbed in! 😀

With that I stopped being on the fence (for once 😝), and jumped over.

Walking along the left hand side of the enclosure, all we could see was the fence disappearing in the distance, raising our hopes of an exit only to find it turning sharply. After a couple of such false alarms, we finally found it! A 20 feet wide break in the fence was guarded by a horizontal pole (fatak). We jumped over it and found a narrow trail, most likely the one those men came by, split from the path and went left into the bushes. Making a mental note of the turn for our descent later in the day, we continued straight along the path, passing a huge parking lot before arriving at a tar road.

After climbing over 3400 feet in little under 6 hours, we were finally standing at the entrance of Bhimashankar Temple!

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The entrance to Bhimashankar temple

The temple lies approx 158 feet below the entrance, accessible by a series of long and wide steps. A number of shops selling everything from sweets, incense stick and even small restaurants line the staircase to temple. Literally running through the ultra-slow moving devotees, we reached the temple only to find a 3- fold queue of people waiting for their turn to get a darshan.

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Top: The queue for darshan; Bottom: The nearly 800 year old Bhimashankar temple

It was already 1430 hrs and from the pace of the queue’s movement, it didn’t seem likely that we would have got darshan inside an hour. Manish and Shardul went ahead and spoke to a volunteer there and he allowed us to pay our respects from the other side of temple.

NOTE: Photography inside the temple isn’t allowed.

After the darshan, we went to the Ganesh pond besides the temple which has an idol of Ganpati on one side and a Shivling on the other side with 5 odd steps in the middle to help one descend into the pond. The constant drizzle allowed me to take only a few shots of the pond while Mansi removed her shoes and entered the pond to bow before the lords.

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Top: Ganpati idol partially submerged in the pond; Bottom: The beautiful Shivling inside the pond

We took a look at the start of the Gupt Bhimashankar trail besides the Ram mandir but with very little time on our hands, we had to forego the plans of attempting it.

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An Ape family huddles together to beat the chill!

Our tummies had started rumbling from all the exhaustion and the cold atmosphere (we could literally see vapours emanating from our bodies) wasn’t helping matters, so we picked up a few bottles of packaged water and proceeded to the entrance after disposing off the empty ones in a trash can kept near the staircase.

Odd that I mention a trivial thing like dumping empty bottles in a trash can? Disposing waste properly is of paramount importance. Even if you don’t care for the environment (which you absolutely should) and head to the hills only for the sights, ask yourself whether you would like to visit a trail full of discarded bottles? So, please do the needful. If this blog turns out even remotely helpful to you, do me a favour and don’t litter this beautiful place. Or any other place, for that matter. Trek safely, Keep Nature clean.

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Janhit mein Jaari! 😉

Anyways, back to the trek! The tar road on the right of the entrance is lined by restaurants on either side and takes one to the State Transport (ST) Bus stand, about 500 metres from the temple.

And before you get your hopes high, the restaurants are nothing but verandahs (a platform along the outside of a house) and stalls masquerading as restaurants. After looking around for quite some time, we finally settled for one of the relatively cleaner food stall called Hotel Rudra and plonked down for a hot meal of Misal Pav/Chapati.

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Left: Hotel Rudra; Right: The board at the start of the trail to Khandas

By the time we started our descent at 1530 hrs, rain had picked up. The temps had dipped below 20 and the wind howling through the huge parking only added to the chill.
When you are trekking in the Sahyadris, improvisation is the name of the game and accordingly, we used everything from a bandana to cap/handkerchief/unused plastic bags to cover our ears and beat the chill. Thankfully, there was no jumping over the fences this time round as we turned right from the enclosure’s fatak onto the faint trail going through the bushes.

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The trail turns into a rocky stream!

We had come prepared, wished even, for a heavy downpour. Now that our wish was being fulfilled, we had to pay the price for it in the form of aching knees and stinging quad muscles as the thin film of water running over the smooth rocks made the descent dicey. The positive side (possibly the only positive side 😝) of the steep descent was the fact that we covered ground quickly!

Passing the dark forest, we reached the horizontal rock patch, again slightly trickier than it was in the morning due to the water flowing over it.

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Top: Shardul crosses the horizontal rock patch (a water drop covered the lens, hence the blur); Bottom: The steep descent of the Mungi Ghat

Another bumpy descent over the Mungi ghat followed and we finally took a break after reaching the Chahacha Aamba at 1700 hrs.

Bhimashankar 52a
The Ghat Sangam! 😉 view of the Chahacha Aamba from Mungi ghat; Blue Arrow: Ganesh Ghat route; Yellow Arrow: Shidi Ghat; White Arrow: Mungi Ghat

Incidentally, the rain stopped as soon as we reach the stall and I took the opportunity to fish out the digicam to get a quick snap of the upper plateau.

Bhimashankar 73
Mungi Ghat behind the Chahacha Aamba

Ganesh Ghat is a long circuitous route and for a fleeting second, the thought of descending by Shidi Ghat did cross my mind. But then none of us except Abhishek had been through the Ganesh route and it didn’t make sense to not experience it after coming so far. And thus we set off for the lengthier route, left of the Chahacha Aamba. On the other side of the bushes was not one, not two but THREE deserted stalls! Imagine the number of people using this route if four huts in such close proximity can pull off satisfactory business on a weekend!

Bhimashankar 73-1s
Top: The bifurcation at Chahacha Aamba (Blue arrow/Left: Ganesh Ghat & Yellow arrow/Right: Shidi Ghat); Bottom: The tree deserted stalls on Ganesh Ghat route.

Having the trail to ourselves is one of the perks of trekking on a weekday, the trade-off obviously being that you have to be prepared for every eventuality with no potential help nearby.

Bhimashankar 77s
Crossing a couple of streams on the way to waterfall

Boards hung on trees at regular intervals by Prashant Arts group of Kalyan, same as the ones in the dark forest above, serve as markers. There’s little chance of missing the route here as a single broad trail cuts through the forest. At 1745 hrs, we crossed the waterfall from where the trail turns 90-degree to the west.

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The waterfall!

We were now walking parallel to Padargad, with a dense forest separating the base of the fort from the trail.

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Selfie at the 90-degree turn!

The trail to Padargad originates from a well, some 300 m from the waterfall and marked by a small white board hung near the well.

Bhimashankar 85s
Left: The trail to Padargad passes besides the Well; Right: An inside view of the well

The Bhimashankar view point lies another 200 metres from the well and just as its name suggests, provides a splendid oblique view of the entire western face of the lower plateau with the Shidi Ghat in the middle of it. Here are some pictures:

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A ‘Dil Chahta hai’ moment at the Bhimashankar view point! 😀 The Shidi Ghat stands between the two leftmost waterfalls of the plateau
Bhimashankar 89
A closer view of the Shidi Ghat

The steep terrain had started taking a toll on our bodies and it was here that Abhishek started his “5 minutes more” chant to get the gang moving. I had traced the route on Google Earth and knew that we had barely reached the midpoint of Ganesh Ghat but decided to play along as any talk of the long route ahead was only going to deflate the gang’s morale.

As we turned South from the view point, Suresh Bhau called up Manish to ask if we had crossed the well and we confirmed the same. He said he had parked his car near the bridge and was ready to pick us from the point where the tar road meets the Ganesh Ghat trail.

NOTE: The following section is the area where most trekkers get lost. Not cos it is some Bermuda Triangle but because the plateau frequently gets enveloped in a fog whiteout making it difficult to orient oneself. A compass or a map will come in handy if you happen to get caught in a whiteout. If everything else fails, you can resort to walking along the right most trail until you find a trail lined by stones or one of the ribbon marked trees.

The trail from this point goes over huge flat rock patches and you ‘ll often see multiple trail emerging out of a rock patch when there was only one trail leading to it.  The group had got divided into two at this point with Abhishek, Shardul & I making up the latter part as we took our time admiring the caves of Padargad. And if you have been reading my blogposts, you would have noticed how one of the trek’s surefire things hadn’t happened until then: Abhishek’s (in)famous falls!

Fret not cos it was here that Abhishek had a nasty fall on a flat slab of slippery rock, unfortunately betrayed at the unlikeliest of places by the very sandals that had served him so well over far more difficult places earlier in the day!

(Incase you aren’t familiar, Abhishek is one of the better climbers of our group and negotiates the difficult patches without breaking a sweat. But he has this superpower of hurting himself by inadvertently falling/slipping at the easiest of places. And there haven’t been many treks where this superpower of his hasn’t shown up 😝)

Jokes apart, it was a nasty fall and he ended up hurting his left knee. While Shardul and I were making sure he was okay to continue, the rest of the gang, oblivious of the incident, went ahead on the trail and stopped only when they realised we weren’t in sight.

Abhishek, the tough nut that he is, was okay to continue. Following on the footsteps of the leading group, we caught up with them some 300 m from the rock slab and then continued along the most prominent trail.

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Marching onwards!

One of my favourite things to do on a trail is to look for signs of fortification and while going through the Ganesh Ghat blogs, I had been disappointed to not come across any. Hence when the trail suddenly turned to pass alongside a water cistern carved in the rock, I was surprised.

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The huge water cistern!

I looked at Abhi and he didn’t have a clue either! We quickly cross checked our position and realised we had missed the gentle right turn that Ganesh Ghat takes after the rock patch where Abhi slipped and had instead continued walking straight!  But the trail we had taken was just as well trodden!

And then I remembered reading about it! It was the trail to Jamrung (passing through Rajape) from the Bhimashankar view point which descends through the valley south of Padargad.

It was close to 1845 hrs and the light was fading. We were at such a point that the correct trail was closer to us than the junction at which we had turned incorrectly. But going directly to the correct trail would also mean going straight through the forest on our west and knowing that trying to forge a path when there isn’t any is best left to local people, we decided to start walking back to the diversion.

Bhimashankar 93s
A map of the Ganesh Ghat route. Red route indicates our U-turn from the water cistern

We walked back about 500m along the Jamrung trail and finally reached the diversion at 5 minutes to 1900 hrs. The Ganesh Ghat route was the fainter of the two trails at this point before widening further down the valley. It seems that while Abhi, Shardul & I had been left behind, the rest of the gang took the more prominent of the trails, which happened to be the one going to Jamrung.

Bhimashankar 94
A Tale of the Two Trails! This picture was clicked a little south west of the point where we lost our way. The trails were of similar width at that point unlike here.

Thankful that we hadn’t encountered one of those famous whiteouts of Bhimashankar at this point, we turned right along the Ganesh ghat route and soon found ourselves in the midst of the forest on the steep slopes.

NOTE: There are ribbons tied to trees lining the path indicating the correct trail. The unfortunate part is that the point where the two trail diverge is a barren patch and therefore there isn’t any marker there.

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Look for these Red ribbons tied to the trees to find the way

With the trail getting steeper by the minute, the faint drizzle turned it into a rocky stream and the tree cover further reduced the amount of light seeping reaching the forest floor. Be careful while descending this portion without adequate light as it’s easy to twist one’s ankle over the smooth rocks and I almost rolled mine twice in this section.

Bhimashankar 98
A view of the Khandas bridge from the forest

We reached the Ganesh Temple at 1920 hrs and wrapped our torches in plastic sheets to shield them from the drizzle. Manish tried to call up Suresh Bhau to let him know we were starting from the temple but coincidentally, he called us up to tell us that he could see the torches flashing in the temple all the way from the Khandas bridge! 😃

Bhimashankar 98s
Ganesh Temple

He told us he ‘ll be waiting at the start of tar road, which according to Abhi was, WAIT FOR IT…. Only 5 minutes from the Mandir! I finally blurted out that we were still half way up the lower plateau and had quite a distance still to cover ☹

The trail after the Mandir is as steep as the Mungi Ghat at certain points and even though there are numerous shortcuts cutting through the trail that entice you with the prospect of saving time, you ‘ll be better off sticking to the trail cos they not only take you to point A to B of the trail in the same amount of time as the proper trail, they are often more hazardous.

With the moon lighting the trail on the sparsely forested portions, we continued our descent at a fair clip to reach the kuchcha road at 1935 hrs. We crossed another pair of deserted stalls here when the road lit up in the yellow glow of a pair of headlights and a second later, the car drove up on the steep dirt road like a messiah to save us exhausted souls!

Bhimashankar 100
And it’s a wrap!

Such was the toll of the hectic trek that the last picture was clicked with weary smiles (which is a rarity btw).

The 45-minute ride to Neral was uneventful (Thankfully!). We paid Rs 900 as decided and thanked Suresh bhau for looking out for us and saving us the kilometre long dull walk to the Khandas bridge. It was 2025 hrs when we crossed over to the platform no. 2, about half an hour early for the next train to CSMT.


Epilogue

Bhimashankar by Shidi & Ganesh Ghat is a beautiful monsoon trek but also an exhausting one, especially when one attempts both the routes in a single day. So if you have been wanting to do it, by all means, go ahead! But be prepared to ice your feet the next day! 😉


NOTE:

  1. All the pictures used in this post have been clicked by me or my friends, unless stated otherwise.
  2. The information provided in this post is for informational purposes only. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore, strictly at your own risk. For full Disclaimer and Content (including Images) Policy, click here -> Terms of Use.

All rights reserved © 2016 – present Nomadosauras.
Content (including images) not for reproduction in any form, partial or otherwise.
Read complete disclaimer- Terms Of Use.

Cheers!
Keep Trekking

 

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19 Comments Add yours

  1. abhusukkakdu says:

    As always awesome…
    Info you provided about the route n all will be very helpful to the others…!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you bro! If it hadn’t been for you, I doubt we would have planned Sidhi Ghat at all! ☺

      Liked by 1 person

  2. debduttapaul says:

    I am amazed at how much pain you take to give so many details. It is so complete with all the insets and hand-drawn arrows. Thank you so much for this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much for appreciating the efforts! 🙂
      I went through the blog post once again after reading your comment and turned out I had missed uploading a map of the Sidhi Ghat in my sleep deprived state last night! Just added it! 😀
      As for the arrows & insets, there’s a long story behind my fascination with maps. Stuff for another blog post 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. debduttapaul says:

        I will be waiting for that one!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. mannaik says:

    exhausting bt memorable one.. ❤ 🙂 great work bro as usual 😀
    eagerly waiting for your next blogs.. specially about range trek 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thanks bro! 🙂 I can’t guarantee if Rajgad-Torna trek post will be the next one but what I can assure you is that when it’s done, it ‘ll be as grand, exhausting and awesome as the trek was! 😉

      Like

  4. Another beautifully written post. Love the details.
    The pictures are all stunning. Especially the ape family, Dil chahata hai moment and the waterfalls.
    I visited India for few weeks recently for Diwali.
    All I did was hog 😛 lol.
    P.s Congratulations on new shoes. Don’t you need ankle protection since you hike during the rainy season? I went to Quechua in Pune. They had good shoes, not too expensive either 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Heya! Thank you so much for the appreciation! 🙂
      Hogging was all I did as well during Diwali 😀
      And the shoes! That is a long story! I am a creature of habit when it comes to trekking so I absolutely detest having to change something I am comfortable with and this is especially true when it comes to shoes. So when I couldn’t find my usual pair (of which I had used 9 in the last 6 years), I went to the Thane store of Decathlon and had actually settled for Quechua’s Helium 500 but then decided against it when I read that the mesh doesn’t hold up for long 😦
      Finally I went for the tried and tested (by some of my friends) low rise model of Action shoes cos the mid rise model, while providing additional support for the ankles, also becomes heavier when wet 😦
      Thank you for the suggestion though! 🙂
      Have you used any of Quechua’s pair for an extended period of time? I would like to have a couple of options the next time I go shoe hunting! 😀

      Like

      1. I have never used anything of Quechua. I use montbell. It’s a Japanese brand. The material is Gore-Tex so pretty good even for snow hikes. I do lot of rocky mountains too so needed a good grip as well. Shoes is something I would definitely invest in when it comes to hiking. Everything else can be managed with more inexpensive gears. I don’t know if you get montbell in India but Quechua seemed nice too. Unfortunately shoes for women had limited variety and did not seem as sturdy as men’s so I didn’t buy any. I bought fleece jacket etc.
        The only problem I had with the brand was size. I think it’s a French brand. The standards are totally different so the sizes are too confusing. I bought XS and it was still too big for me. Here in Japan it should be M or something.
        Another option in shoes is London sports. They have good stuff. I might buy that soon. I might buy those next time. The shoes I am using currently are falling apart. 🙂
        All the best

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Nomadosauras says:

          I agree! Footwear shouldn’t be compromised on. I was looking for a shoe with a soft sole and an aggressive lug design to negotiate the scree patches. They are my nightmare cos I hate not being sure of my footing on an exposed patch and the ever shifting fine scree gives me that feeling.
          And Montbell unfortunately isn’t available in Mumbai but Salomon has quite a few made using Gore-Tex. The only thing that held me back was Contagrip.
          I don’t plan on buying another pair until the next monsoon atleast as the current pair lie gathering dust while I recover from a recurring knee injury but I think I ‘ll take a chance with Salomon if Montbell/London Sports don’t show up in stores over here by then!
          All the best for your shoe hunt as well!
          Cheers! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Tau says:

    I have been to Bhimashankar through this route. In the rainy season, it gives the feeling as if you are walking through a rainforest with constant streams crossing your way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      True! Thanks for reading & sharing your experience! 🙂

      Like

  6. ruturajv says:

    “The green hued sky and the hauntingly beautiful Dark forest!” picture was awesome! Nice writeup and treks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much Ruturaj! I am glad you liked it! 🙂

      Like

  7. Vinit Date says:

    Great great blog with all minute to details covered. Good use of photos along with google maps marked perfectly gives lots of information. This is one of the best blog I found on Khandas-Bhimashankar trail. The best part is panorama of the entire Shidi Ghat. You really did a great job man! keep writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you so much, Sir! During a few previous treks of mine, I had realised that documenting any trail on the descent is a bit of a challenge for me, most probably due to fatigue as well as time constraints and hence, I had consciously decided to put in a bit more effort during the Ganesh Ghat descent. A comment appreciating the same, that too from an experienced trekker like you has validated my efforts!
      Thank you once again!
      Cheers!

      Like

  8. Soumya Somani says:

    Wow!!! All this is making me wish for a beautiful journey and adventure like this!!! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nomadosauras says:

      Thank you Soumya! A new adventure awaits at every nook and corner of Sahyadris and I wish that you embark on one very soon 🙂
      Thank you so much for reading and leaving a comment! Cheers & keep exploring 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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