Living in a Marsupial World
 
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Driving west from Charters Towers along the Flinders Highway, we found ourselves in a familiar landscape. The region transitioned from lush coastal rainforest to a flat expanse akin to Kansas or Nebraska, complete with rusty windmills dotting the landscape. After a short drive, we decided to stop in the town of Prairie for the night. The town had a permanent population of 50 and was so named because of its similarities to the American Midwest. Its key features were a small park/rest area, complete with a large metal Comet windmill, and a pub. We intended to camp at the rest area for the evening at our usual price of $0, however we discovered that camping had been banned in that spot since our Camps 5 was published. There was no way we could guerilla camp discretely unfortunately, so we paid a small fee to the Prairie pub to camp behind their facilities for the night. We debated this decision for quite some time, causing us to enter and exit the pub at least 4 times, which made us look completely insane to the young bartenders as well as the four gruff, mustachioed bikers who blankly stared at us through their dark sunglasses. Awkward.


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Thankfully, the Prairie pub itself was awesome. The interior was filled with the rural knick-knacks you come to expect from this kind of town. The walls were covered in blurry photographs of successful boar hunting trips, dated XXXX Gold beer posters of busty women stripping off comically tiny versions of Queensland rugby jerseys, and all manner of farming paraphernalia. The windowsill was tastefully decorated with jars of deadly snakes floating in murky formalin, and the ceiling was covered in tattered cattleman hats that had been tacked to the plaster. Another great feature was an old-fashioned dental chair in place of a corner barstool. The thing is, it didn’t stop there – this kind of quirkiness was more or less expected of a backwater pub. The real surprises came when we moved to the back lot to set up camp. 


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Back Yard Oddities
Our first realization when we pulled around back was that we were actually camping in someone’s backyard. The owners of the pub, a thirty-something married couple, had two little children, and since the pub doubled as their home, they had built a tree house complete with plastic slide and a garage for the tricycles. This was actually kind of adorable - it was the other ridiculous crap we found that made the camping area a sort of surrealist, domestic fantasyland. Next to the tree house was a rusted bench press dumbbell set, a burnt out, half demolished air conditioning unit, as if whoever put it there wasn’t sure whether to fix it or light it on fire, and a small, fenced-in junkyard occupied by the family’s pet Alpaca. We tried to make friends with our fuzzy, bucktoothed campmate, but something about his demeanor made it abundantly clear that he was eagerly waiting for one of us to get within spitting range. According to Kevin, a young regular at the pub, the Alpaca used to be very docile and friendly, but had never quite gotten over the initial emotional trauma of his first shearing. Oh, and they had a 2,000 lb pet water buffalo named Buffy. It was recommended to us that we never hop Buffy’s fence to say hi because we’d most likely end up as human shish kebabs, or simply be trampled to death. We were obviously thrilled to be spending the night.


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After setting up camp, we stepped into the pub to have a frosty beer or two and enjoy the atmosphere before dinnertime. While slogging through one of the most embarrassingly terrible games of pool I’ve ever witnessed, we got to know some of the bar staff, as well as discuss the finer points of Family Guy references with Kevin, who at 22 was living in Prairie as a kind of self-reformation for years of overpartying.

The next morning Marielle cooked up some glorious road pancakes to eat with the passionfruit butter we had acquired, we said goodbye to our herbivorous neighbors and set out for Hughenden and Porcupine Gorge.



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