14 Day Road Trip: South Island in Winter | Apollo Campervans NZ
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14 Day Winter Road Trip: The South Island Winter Wonderland!

Visit the South Island ski fields, glaciers, dark sky reserve and alpine spa towns as you travel along the most amazing road trip routes of the south

World Class Ski Fields

For a lot of people, New Zealand is a bucket list destination and this 14-day winter itinerary will showcase why. Aotearoa is home to some wonderful areas of natural beauty and what's more, you can even ski and snow board down a lot of them! If you’re a winter sports fan, take it from us when we say this is one trip not to be missed! We have included over 60 highlights, stops and viewpoints for you to enjoy so you can pack it all in for an action-packed holiday or pick and choose what sites you visit as you set your own pace. 

This route features some world-famous ski fields like Mt Hutt, Cardona, Coronet Peak, Treble Cone and The Remarkables, but that is just the beginning. This route takes you on a highlights tour covering sites from FIVE of the themed highways of the South Island, showcasing the best of the best in the wild south. 

You will be star struck by the Aoraki-McKenzie International Dark Sky Reserve where you can take in some of the clearest night skies in the world with excellent views of the Milkyway and the Magellan Clouds you will ever see – not to mention of the Southern Alps.  

Walk in the footsteps of Sir Ed Hillary as you enjoy arguably New Zealand’s best short walk at the Hooker Valley in the shadow of Mt Cook, the tallest mountain in Australasia. 

Queenstown awaits, king of the mighty Lakes District and the adventure capital of the Southern Hemisphere. This is a fast town with fast things to do. From a hustling night life to jetboats screaming through canyons, it’s a new adventure every minute. 

Take on Roy's Peak while in Wanaka for the most iconic view in New Zealand and marvel at the glaciers and unspoiled coastal scenery that is the West Coast of the South Island, voted one of Lonely Planet's favorite coastal road trip routes.  

Finish it all off with a relaxing stay in an Alpine spa town before you make your way through the famous Waipara wine region. 


Day 1: Christchurch – Mt Hutt

Travel time: 1hr 30mins

Distance: 108km

First you will get some up-to-date advice from the friendly staff while you collect your motorhome from the Christchurch Apollo branch located conveniently just 10 minutes from Christchurch Airport. Stock up on supplies from the Countdown supermarket just a few minutes away before heading to the Mt Hutt Ski area  via the scenic Rakaia gorge offering magnificent views of one of our largest river catchments. 

Methven is just over an hour away via this easy drive from the Apollo Branch so you waste little time starting your ski holiday. What’s more, you can rely on Mt Hutt getting the first snow of the season and being one of the first to open. It has varied terrain making it perfect for families, beginners and experienced skiers and snow boarders alike, allowing you to refresh your skills on some relaxed runs before taking on the more challenging. 

The little country town of Methven provides a lovely basecamp for your time at Mt Hutt. It has an excellent campsite with powered sites along with two kiwi pubs nearby to relax and eat in. What’s more, from Winter 2021, the state-of-the-art Opoke Thermal Pools Complex will be open, offering guests public and private thermal pools to relax their sore muscles in. 

For convenience, you can get the ski shuttle straight from the campsite to the mountain. There are two shuttle options, Snowman Shuttles and the Mt Hutt Ski bus to pick from. 


  • Pick up Christchurch Apollo 

  • The scenic Rakaia gorge drive 

  • Mt Hutt Ski Area 

  • Opoke thermal pools 

Where to stay: The Methven Campground is the perfect place to base yourself while on a ski trip to Mt Hutt. It is a short walk to the center of town and hot pools while the ski buses and shuttles will pick you up from here and take you directly to the slopes for extra convenience. 

Apollo hint: Looking for an easy start to the trip? Order a “click and collect” order from the Countdown supermarket at Christchurch Airport so that you can collect your groceries and be on the road without spending heaps of time doing a large shop in an unfamiliar supermarket. 

The iconic blue pub in Methven captured by Michael Holden


Day 2: Enjoy Mt Hutt Ski Area 

This is Canterbury's premier ski resort that gets a whopping 4 meters of snow every season on its 360+ hectares of open terrain, double most other Australasian ski fields and guaranteeing your best shot at fresh powder.  

It offers a laid-back atmosphere for beginner and experienced skiers alike with some great thigh burn as you navigate the 683m of vertical drop on offer! This, combined with the steep terrain have given it the moniker of the “capital of speed” and why many ski teams from around the world have called this their southern training base. All this, while still having some of the best dedicated learner slopes on offer in New Zealand where kids under 7 ski for free! It has just added a larger chair lift making even its busy weekend days more than manageable. 


  • Mt Hutt Ski Area 

Where to stay: The Methven Campground is the perfect place to base yourself at while on a ski trip to Mt Hutt. It is a short walk to the center of town and hot pools while the ski buses and shuttles will pick you up from here and take you directly to the slopes for extra convenience. 

Apollo hint: Looking for one of the best views in Canterbury? Ballooning Canterbury do amazing hot air balloon flights over the Canterbury plains and are based just 25 minutes from Methven. Dawn is the best time to fly thanks to the calmer weather and amazing colors that the first rays of sun bring. 

Mt Hutt ski field, just an hour from Christchurch

Day 3: Mt Hutt – Lake Tekapo

Time travel: 2hrs 45mins

Distance: 182km

Time to head to the scenic McKenzie Basin, home to the Aoraki Mt Cook Dark Sky Reserve. Stop for a bite to eat at the Fairlie bakehouse, one of New Zealand’s best bakeries and home to the famous kiwi pie! Your next stop will be at the glorious Lake Tekapo. Take a stroll along the scenic lake front enjoying the incredible views on offer of the Lake, the alps and the world famous “church of the good shepherd” before enjoying a soak in the fabulous lake side thermal pools of Tekapo Springs. 

Tekapo is a fabulous winter destination with a range of activities on offer including Ice Skating and Snow Tubing, a favorite for families. 

You can enjoy the dark sky reserve on your own, or take one of the awesome tours that are available from the Tekapo township for some incredible views of the Milkyway and Magellan clouds and if you're lucky, of the aurora australis, or “Southern Lights”, mother nature's most famous light show. 

You can simply sit outside and enjoy the amazing views at your leisure or pick from the numerous star gazing tour options available. The Silver River tour is a popular, dedicated star gazing tour done in an area away from the bright lights of Tekapo on the 25,000 acres of farmland they have access to. Silver river also does astrophotography tours where they can teach you all about photographing the night sky in the heart of a dark sky reserve. 


  • lunch at Fairlie bakehouse 

  • Soak in the hot pools 

  • Church of the good shepherd 

  • Sheep dog monument 

  • Star gazing and Astronomy tours in Tekapo with Silver River 

  • Hot pools and activities and Tekapo Springs 

Where to stay: Camp at Lake Tekapo Holiday Park nestled at the top of the lake within easy walking distance of the town center, the lake edge and the Tekapo springs hot pools. 

Apollo hint: Looking to relax? Try the “soak in the stars” option from Tekapo springs where they combine a star gazing tour with late night, exclusive entry to the springs. This is especially a great option for couples. 

Lake Tekapo is simply stunning

Day 4: Aoraki Mt Cook National Park – Queenstown

Travel time: 4hrs 45mins

Distance: 374 km

Wake up to the first rays of the sun shining off the lake before heading south to Lake Pukaki, the largest of the North-south running lakes in the region. Here you can see amazing vistas of Mt cook along with the monument to the king of the alps, the Himalayan tahr, first released here at the start of the 20th century. Being in the heart of high-country salmon country, you can purchase fresh salmon from the many alpine salmon farms that call the high-country canals home.  

Now sit back and enjoy one of the most scenic roads in New Zealand – SH80, better known as the Mt Cook Road. This road meanders its way around Lake Pukaki towards the colossal Mt Cook where the road provides you with an iconic road trip photo.  

Welcome to the hiking capital of New Zealand at Mt Cook National Park! Head through to Mt Cook village first for a visit to the Sir Edmund Hillary monument and pop in for a bite at the hermitage. After, head off to the Hooker Valley track where you can enjoy one of the best family friendly short walks anywhere in the world or the even more accessible Blue and Tasman lakes walks

Wave good bye to the Mackenzie district as you cross the Lindis Pass and enter into the Lakes District. Head straight to Queenstown as you will explore the Gibbston Valley and other attractions on your way to Wanaka in a few days' time.  

After the peace and quiet of the New Zealand high country, welcome to the Hussle and bustle of Queenstown.  Enjoy dinner at the top of the gondola, taking in the stunning views of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu. 


  • Scenic view point of Lake Pukaki and Mt Cook 

  • Blue and Tasman lakes walk 

  • Queenstown Gondola and Stratosfare restaurant 

Where to stay: Queenstown Top 10 Holiday Park is located just 15 minutes from Coronet Peak and 15 minutes from the Queenstown CBD making it perfectly placed to enjoy your time in Queenstown. 

Apollo hint: For those wanting to make the most of the day, walk the Hooker Valley but if you want an easier day, the Blue and Tasman lakes walk are quicker allowing you more time to drive to Queenstown. 

The Hooker Valley Track is favorite winter short walk

Day 5: Queenstown and Coronet Peak 

Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand and one of the world's top destination towns. With several world class ski fields on its doorstep, amazing alpine views and lakes not to mention some amazing thrill seeker activities, Queenstown is simply a must do. 

For those looking for a relaxing day, we recommend doing the scenic drive to Glenorchy before making a stop at the Kiwi Bird Life Park where you can meet some of New Zealand's favorite friends up close!  

Then of course there are the four ski fields of the Queenstown area, the closest being Coronet Peak, just 10 minutes from your campsite at the Queenstown Top 10. What’s more, the access road to the field is sealed making access even easier. 

Coronet peak has been a New Zealand favorite since 1947 when the first rope lift in New Zealand was installed there leading to it becoming New Zealand’s first ever commercial ski resort. Its popularity remains unchallenged thanks not only to its proximity to Queenstown but also its fall line and extensive grooming, which led to “powderhounds” naming it their “best skiing in New Zealand” award winner for intermediate terrain while 25% of the field is still set aside for beginners.Coronet peak is also home to the night ski, making the most of their award-winning runs in quite a unique setting under lights. 


  • Kiwi Bird Life Park 

  • Scenic drive to Glenorchy 

  • Coronet Peak Ski Area 

Where to stay: Queenstown Top 10 Holiday Park is located just 15 minutes from Coronet Peak and 15 minutes from the Queenstown CBD making it perfectly placed to enjoy your time in Queenstown. 

Apollo hint: Ferg Burger is a national icon and one that cannot be missed while in Queenstown. Queues can be long so make sure you’re not in a rush for lunch. Devil Burger provides an equally good burger, often without the lines. 

Coronet Peak is just 20min from Queenstown

Day 6: The Remarkables Ski Area 

This ski area is true to its name being located on the Remarkables mountain range. It is one of the most photographed mountain ranges in the world thanks to its dramatic landscape of sharply carved peaks overlooking Lake Whakatipu. The Remarkables ski area features a massive learner's slope and a total of 7 parks with which to test yourself on. It is an ideal mix of terrtain with 30% beginner, 40% intermediate and 30% expert. “Big Mountain” has an exhilarating 468-meter drop and covers a huge 385 hectares. With multiple chair and conveyor lifts, a café, 2 bars, a restaurant and sunny north facing slopes, it provides a great place to spend a full day on a field. 


  • The Remarkables Ski Area 

Where to stay: Queenstown Top 10 Holiday Park is located just 15 minutes from Coronet Peak and 15 minutes from the Queenstown CBD making it perfectly placed to enjoy your time in Queenstown. 

Apollo hint: To save time and skip the ques, in peak season it’s a good idea to pre-buy your lift pass in town at the Snow Center, which is also where you can get the shuttle up the mountain. 

The view from the Gondola of the Remarkables is...remarkable!

Day 7: Queenstown – Wanaka

Travel time: 2hrs

Distance: 125km

Today you take on two of the world’s premier adventure activities that were pioneered in New Zealand. First up it’s the iconic Shotover Jet. This provides you with a world class jetboat experience as you weave in and out of canyons at breathtaking speed while your pilot pulls 360 degree “jet spins” to keep you on the edge of your seat!   

Next up is the world's first ever bungee jump at AJ Hackets at Kawarau gorge where you plummet straight down so close to the river below that you can reach out and touch it!  

Travel back through the stunning Gibbston valley home to some amazing cellar door experiences and New Zealand’s largest wine cave  in one of New Zealand’s most famous wine regions. 

Your next stop – the amazing Lake Wanaka. This place is just gorgeous! Among other things, it has one of the most photographed trees in the world. The tree is gorgeous, the backdrop fabulous and the entire area is breathtaking. It provides a great place for a rest day, relaxing on the shores of one of New Zealand’s most beautiful lakes.  


  • Shotover Jet 

  • Kawarau AJ Hacket Bungy Jump 

  • Gibbston Valley and cellar door experiences 

Where to stay: Glendu Bay Motor Camp is an idyllic campsite nestled right on the edge of the beautiful Lake Wanaka. It is conveniently located next to the Roys Peak track head along with the access road to Treble Cone (30 minutes) and only a short drive (1 Hour) to the Cardrona resort. 

Apollo hint: The Gibbston Valley is not just home to some amazing wines but also the Gibbston Valley Cheesery where you can get your hands on some amazing locally produced cheese varieties. 

One of the most photographed trees in the world at Lake Wanaka

Day 8: Treble Cone Ski Area 

Treble Cone ski area is an ideal place to spend your last day on the slopes, at the South Islands largest ski field at Treble Cone. Famous for its spectacular views along with its long runs and legendary off-piste, it is a must do on any Aotearoa Ski Holiday. With 700 meters of vertical, it’s nice to have a few days of skiing under your belt before you take on this beast! 

It does still have a learner's area and slopes for all experience level so there is something for everyone. 


  • Treble Cone Ski Area 

Where to stay: Glendu Bay Motor Camp is an idyllic campsite nestled right on the edge of the beautiful Lake Wanaka. It is conveniently located next to the Roys Peak track head along with the access road to Treble Cone (30 minutes) and only a short drive (1 Hour) to the Cardrona resort. 

Apollo hint: Treble Cone is truly massive with numerous slopes and runs for all experience levels. Check out the Treble Cone Terrain Guide to give you some insight into what runs will suit you the best. 

Treble Cone is a stunning ski area for all experience levels

Day 9: Enjoy Wanaka 

Wanaka lies at the top of its namesake lake and is one of New Zealand’s top resort towns. Spend the day relaxing on the waterfront at its bars, cafes and restaurants or perhaps by knocking off the Roy's Peak track, home to one of New Zealand’s best views. Trust us, your Instagram won’t know what hit it! If you want an easier but still beautiful walk, we recommend the Mount Iron track


  • Roys Peak 

  • Mount Iron Track 

Where to stay: Glendu Bay Motor Camp is an idyllic campsite nestled right on the edge of the beautiful Lake Wanaka. It is conveniently located next to the Roys Peak track head along with the access road to Treble Cone (30 minutes) and only a short drive (1 Hour) to the Cardrona resort. 

Apollo hint: Take plenty of water and start the trek to Roys Peak early. Hike to the conditions and to your own comfort levels as this track does go above 1,000 meters and you will be in an alpine environment. 

Roys Peak offers one of the best views you can walk to in New Zealand

Day 10: Cardrona Ski Area 

Today you get to see why Cardrona ski area has one of New Zealand's most popular ski resorts. This stunning ski area hosts a fantastic lodge, wonderful views along with some of the best slopes for beginners and intermediates in the Southern ski area. While it’s not known for its super challenging slopes, it has still been a home base for Olympic and x-games athletes so you just never know who you may see up here! Be sure to stop in at the iconic pub and distillery while you're up there!

Winter Mountain transport is available from near the bottom of the Cardrona access road thanks to Pine Tree Shuttles or you can get the shuttle directly from Wanaka  


  • Cardrona Ski Area 

  • Cardrona Hotel

  • Cardrona Distillery

Where to stay: Glendu Bay Motor Camp is an idyllic campsite nestled right on the edge of the beautiful Lake Wanaka. It is conveniently located next to the Roys Peak track head along with the access road to Treble Cone (30 minutes) and only a short drive (1 Hour) to the Cardrona resort. 

Apollo hint: Do you love to freeride? Captains Basin has many groomed and rolling sections with jumps you will love. A local favorite is keeping high on Captain's bowl as you traverse around, opening up access to the many drops and chutes the route is well known for. 

Cardrona is an awesome area to explore, with ski fields hotels and distilleries

Day 11: Wanaka – Haast – Franz Joseph

Travel time: 3hrs

Distance: 212 km

Today you will drive through the lovely Haast Pass as you enter the wild West Coast.   

It is important to note that there is A LOT to see over the next few days on the West Coast. We have put together a list of highlights and stops that while busy, is certainly achievable. As always, treat it as a guide and travel at your own pace that is comfortable for you. 

Your first stop will be Mt Aspiring National Park at the Blue Pools track, a lovely short walk alongside the Makarora river through a beech and podocarp forest. There are loads of other short walks along the Haast highway, with Thunder Falls being a favorite where you can hear how this 28-meter waterfall got its name.  

Continue on to explore the wild and untamed Haast/ Te Wahipounamu Wilderness Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Area. With its plethora of amazing beaches, dune systems, wetlands, lakes and coastal marvels all set to the backdrop of the mighty Southern Alps, it’s no wonder it holds its UNESCO status

Visit Jacksons Bay, one of the only two known nurseries in South Westland for Hectors dolphin females (cows) and their calf's and a place with some lovely scenic short walks. Explore the short walks north of Haast where you can stop off at ship creek to see the start of this amazing coastline and try your luck it the seabirds viewing tower there before searching out the elusive yellow eyed penguins at Monro Beach. 

As you travel along the glacier highway, you will be struck by the sheer scale of what mother nature has built and be struck by the fact that you can look at sheets of ice while standing in a rainforest wearing shorts and flipflops! Welcome to Fox Glacier! There are many awesome helicopter tours to explore the glaciers, or you can do the short chalet track viewpoint for great views of Fox glacier or you can do the longer valley walk. 

Relax in the Franz Joseph glacier hot pools before heading out to spot some glow worms before enjoying a good night sleep – you've earned it!  


  • Blue Pools 

  • Gates of Haast 

  • Thunder falls 

  • Haast and its wilderness area 

  • Jacksons Bay 

  • Ship creek 

  • Knights Point Lookout 

  • Monro Beach 

  • Fox Glacier 

  • Chalet track viewpoint 

  • Fox Glacier Valley Walk 

  • Franz Joseph Hot Pools 

  • Okarito Kiwi Tours 

Where to stay: Franz Joseph Top 10 is the ideal place to stay while exploring the glacier highway, being so close to the many attractions around the Fox/Franz area and being walking distance from the hot pools! 

Apollo Hint: Here is a hidden gem! After dark, take the terrace walk through the bush and keep your eyes out for New Zealand’s living stars – the glow worms! These are best found under or around fallen trees. 

Welcome to glacier country!

Day 12: Franz Joseph - Punakaiki

Travel time: 3hrs 30mins

Distance: 222 km

Make a stop off at Lake Matheson, New Zealand's most reflective lake where you can get a mirror image of Mt Cook before taking a visit to the glacier. 

The Roberts point track gives you the best views of the glacier, after which take a visit to the West Coast Wildlife center and Okarito lagoon, a 3,200-hectare wetland and bird sanctuary that hosts a range of birds including some unique to only New Zealand including a kiwi tour. You can explore this awesome place via a kayak tour or on the beautiful trig walk before heading North towards Hokitika. 

Arriving into the cultural capital of the West Coast, first up you have the lovely tree top walk through the canopy of the west coast rainforest, voted as New Zealand's most popular canopy walk. 

Hokitika will greet you with places where you can make your own or purchase some pounamu (greenstone) jewelry, a great memento considering Te Wai Pounamu is the Maori name for the South Island which essentially means land of greenstone.   

Today you start the famed Great Coast Road which begins when you pass through Greymouth, home to New Zealand’s Monteith's brewery – stock up on some supplies on your way through. Next, take a quick stop and at the heritage building that is the Runanga Miners Hall, a beautiful piece of architecture from the wild mining period of the west coast. Take in the epic coastline at Motukiekie and Rapahoe beach on the stunning short walk on the Point Elizabeth walkway before exploring Punakaiki and its Pancake rocks and blow holes millions of years in the making. Be sure to do some of the walks in the area and check out Punakaiki cavern, an often-missed hidden gem. 

There are a lot of highlights on this leg of your journey, but some are quite short stops while others offer longer excursion. Pick and choose those that suit you and your holiday. 


  • Lake Matheson Walk 

  • West Coast Wildlife center 

  • Franz Joseph Glacier 

  • Roberts Point Walk 

  • Terrace Walk 

  • Okarito Lagoon  

  • Tree Walk 

  • Hokitika  

  • Greymouth 

  • Monteiths brewery 

  • Runanga Miners Hall 

  • Motukiekie Beach 

  • Rapahoe Beach 

  • Port Elizabeth Lookout 

  • Punakaiki Cavern 

  • Punakaiki’s “Pancake Rocks” 

Where to stay: Punakaiki has quite a few campsites to pick from, with both paid and freedom camping options but Punakaiki Beach Camp is ideally situated to explore the sites while being located not far from the beach and with views of the epic cliffs. 

Apollo hint: Get down to the blow hole at hightide where the water pressure will be at its highest! 

The great coast road is one of Lonely Planets favorite coastal driving routes

Day 13: Punakaiki – Westport – Hanmer Springs

Travel time: 4hrs

Distance: 287km

Start the day with a walk on the Pororari river track before making a stopover in Charleston, the blackwater rafting capital of New Zealand! This is the home of an epic 4-hour rafting expedition through an underground cave system. You can also do standard caving and forest tours or visit the Denniston historic mining sites and Charming Creek so there really is something for everyone in this cool little town.  

Head onto Cape Foulwind, home to an awesome, coastal scenic boardwalk where you can see New Zealand fur seals at Tauranga Bay before making a visit to the Buller Capital, Westport and a proud historic mining town – check out all the Westport history and attractions like the museum to find out more about this quirky town. 

Finish up your time on the west coast with a scenic drive along the picturesque Buller gorge before you head for home or on to your next adventure. Pick either to head back to Christchurch via a night in the amazing Alpine Spa town of Hanmer Springs and the Alpine Pacific Touring Route (Hanmer Springs, Kaikoura, Waipara wine region) or head north and add on a few more days to explore the Treasured Pathway (Nelson/Marlborough). 

Hanmer Springs is an alpine spa town and the gateway to the Lewis Pass and the Alpine Pacific Touring Route making it an ideal place to relax on your final night, soaking in the memories at Hanmer Springs Thermal Reserve. 


  • Pororari river track 

  • Charleston 

  • Westport 

  • Cape Foulwind and Tauranga Bay Seal Colony 

  • Buller Gorge 

  • Hanmer Springs Alpine Spa Town 

Where to stay: The Hanmer Springs Top 10 Holiday Park is ideally located to give you easy access to all of the local attractions while staying in Hanmer Springs. 

Apollo hint: Hanmer is home to a small boutique and basic ski field that can provide you one final burn on the slopes of New Zealand. It is small and staffed by volunteers, but it optimizes the “skiwi” attitude that has led to the awesome ski culture New Zealand has today. 

Cape Foulwind offers a great coastal boardwalk and a seal colony to observe

Day 14: Hanmer Springs – Christchurch

Travel time: 1hr 45mins

Distance: 129km

Enjoy a final dip in the pools before doing the lovely “art in the forest” walk where you can see some fabulous carved art work on a short forest trail just out of town.  

It’s time to head home as you follow the Waiau river which takes you to the base camp for the adventure activities in region at Hanmer Attractions. They provide your one stop shop for adventure in Hanmer Springs. From jetboating to river rafting, to quad bike tours and bungy jumping, they have it all waiting for you try. The best part is, they all run from one location making it easy to do multiple tours in a day. 

On your way back home, keep an eye out for Frog rock as you make your way back to SH1 for a trip through the Waipara wine district and cellar doors to Christchurch and your drop off at the Christchurch Apollo Branch. 


  • Final soak in the Hanmer Springs Thermal Reserve 

  • Art in the forest walk 

  • The many adventures offered by “Hanmer Attractions”. Including rafting, jetboating, clay target shooting, horse trekking and quad bike tours. They are Hanmer’s one stop shop for adventure 

  • Frog rock 

Apollo hint: You will pass through the small town of Waikari, home to the historic Weka Pass walkway Maori wall art. This 40-minute walk takes you to the limestone overhangs, under which you can find some awesome examples of Maori art. 

The alpine spa town of Hanmer Springs is idyllic


Ready to explore?



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