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Published: October 15th 2009
Old Helensville Post Office
These days it's the offices of Heartland Services - a one-stop shop for Government and community agencies.
"It's a private pool", the elderly woman said as she and her husband passed me on my arrival. The pool wasn't private but she was right all the same.
The pool at Parakai was empty, not a soul, and I lay back and let the warm, thermal waters wash over me. My only companions were two swallows which flitted in through the open roof and swooped over the pool before one did a poop in the water and they both flew off. I was left contemplating how many swallow poops would constitute a health hazard. Probably squadrons of them, all pooping in unison into the chlorinated waters. I relaxed. Later as I climbed the steps to get out, one of the swallows returned and flew into a nest in the rafters - above the pool, in perfect pooping position.
I hardly needed the swim. After all, 25 kms on a bicycle is not a long way be anyone's standards. But after leaving Muriwai, a stiff headwind from the north west buffeted me - it's direction a giveaway that rain was on the way. I pressed on, anxious to get the tent up before the rain arrived.
The old BNZ building
Right next doorto the Post Office, the BNZ lies empty.
But I stopped long enough to chat to Maori woman collecting puha, or watercress, from a drain on the side of the road. She was neatly dressed, but was wearing gumboots to get down into the ditch. A child - perhaps her daughter - appeared to be asleep in their van on the side of the road. The woman handed me a watercress stalk and instructed me to break it.
"See", she said. "It snapped in two. That's what you look for. If it bends and doesn't break easily it means means it's going to flower soon and it doesn't taste as good."
She explained how she prepared it. Fresh into salads, blanched, or thrown into the pot in the last 10 minutes if she was making a boilup.
Soon after I resumed my journey, there was a moment of high drama. There in front of me was a duck and about a dozen ducklings crossing the road from left to right. They were clear of my side, but fast approaching in the opposite direction was a car. Here was life (or should that be death) about to unfold before me. They were hidden from
By the old railway lines
The commuter services may have resumed to Auckland, but old buildings lie abandoned - victim to vandals who've smashed windows and graffited the walls.
the driver of the oncoming vehicle by a dip in the road. I attempted feebly to wave the driver down, but knew my riding skills weren't really up to it- one handed with my load and I was likely to fall off. Fortunately, the woman at the wheel showed quick reactions. The moment she spotted the ducks, she braked hard but made no attempt to swerve on to my side to pass them. She stoppped short, waved, and I gave her the thumbs up. Tragedy avoided, but high drama on a bike where I feel part of my environment rather than simply travelling through it.
A short time later the tent was up in Parakai and the rain was still holding off. Time to explore. Parakai may be the better known of two settlements because of its thermal attractions, but two kilometres away Helensville is bigger and services the rural community.
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