It's a taxing job


WHILE language difficulties between taxi drivers and passengers can be common in metropolitan areas, there is an unusual twist to the difficulties on Fraser Island.

Both Fraser Island taxi drivers, Steve Belcher and Lisa Walker speak English, but often their international passengers don't.

Steve said even those who spoke English didn't always get his jokes.

He said that a US passenger once asked if there was a shopping centre at Central Station. He told him there wasn't, but joked that there was a McDonald's at Pile Valley.

When they arrived at Pile Valley the passenger was disappointed.

"I think he'd take me seriously and I didn't know he was hungry," Steve said.

Steve and Lisa took over the taxi service on Fraser Island more than six years ago.

They agreed it hadn't always been easy, but there had been many interesting moments.

Lisa said island driving could be challenging whether on the beach with changing tides or on the inland sandy tracks. If they have to drive the beach at night, they usually go together.

"When there's a sea mist, you strain your eyes trying to see. One of us watches for waves and the other watches for landmarks," Steve said.

Lisa's record for the slowest trip from Eurong to Kingfisher Bay, a distance of 25km, was three and a half hours.

Lisa explained: "The sand gets very boggy in hot, dry weather. I had to pull four bogged cars out of the way. There were about 30 other cars bogged and you just have to wait to get through.

"It's not a lot of fun on your belly digging in the hot sand to clear around wheels and diffs," she said.

Steve said he was booked to pick up a woman at Kingfisher Bay Resort at 6 o'clock one morning. She had chartered a plane to fly her to Hervey Bay from Wanggoolba air strip so she could catch a commercial flight to Sydney.

"The lady asked if I could guarantee to be on time. I told her there were no guarantees because a tree could fall across the road," Steve said.

On the way he came across a broken-down vehicle. It was locked and abandoned in the middle of the track. He couldn't get past it or shift it so he had to cancel the booking.

"The woman was ropeable. I still think she jinxed us by asking for a guarantee," he said.

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