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  • E.P.

Island taxi encounters

It was raining when I got off the ferry and decided to take a taxi. The driver, a woman, was very chatty, as often taxi drivers and islanders are.

"Are you visiting the island for tourism?" she asked.

"No, not really, I came to do some writing", I replied reluctantly, not in the mood for talk, as much as I love taxi chatting.

"Oh, what do you write about?" her curiosity now switched on.

I was nursing a monstrous cold so I offered a short explanation, "I write about islands". That did not deter my taxi driver, she needed to know what kind of writing, assuming I was a travel writer. I just did not have it in me to explain my ethnographic island research but felt I needed to be sociable since I was going to spend a week on the island, and this is a small one. So, I offered a simplified version of that which got her talking for the rest of the journey to my destination.

"Oh, you must know then how oversold is our island, everyone wants to come here and it is putting a big pressure on water supplies, you see we rely on water rain here...." And on she went providing me with the "other side to the story of living on the sunny and glorious island of Waiheke." She came to the island a year ago and since then she is been feeling a bit disillusioned about it all.

I really did not want to hear all this, I was in need of an island escapade that could offer me harbor for a few days, time off from my mainland reality and all it represents: stressful job, big mortgage, busy roads, impersonal communication, slick cafes and mindless shopping.

Of course, I knew what she was talking about, the dilemmas small islands face: tourists bring income which offers jobs which makes it easier to stay on the island but how to do you stop the tourists coming when they exceed the desired and sustainable number? And how do you get the local authorities to provide with the right infrastructure? Waiheke is close to Auckland, just 30 minutes sail which makes it the ideal one-day visit destination with its vineyards and nice beaches. The ferry company saw more profit in it and introduced double-decker sightseeing buses which look utterly ridiculous in this small island's landscape. The locals protested, the private company not only prevailed but got also the Council to pay for the trimming of the trees so the double-deckers can navigate easier the island's small and windy roads. No, I did not want to hear all this, but I knew I could not turn a blind eye to my much desired "paradise island".

"How much do I owe you?" I asked as I taking my luggage out. "Seven dollars", I offered a tenner, she said she will have to keep it as she did not have change. So, I paid for the talk that I did not want to hear after all.

At the end of the day, I went for a walk around Oneroa Bay. The island's magic did what I needed it to do, it restored my spirit for now. How can you stop others from wanting to share that island magic?

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