Val Hogan has been bitten by dogs, attacked by magpies and fallen off her bike numerous times but still loves being a postie after 30 years.
It is estimated that during her career she has ridden 181,320 kilometres, the equivalent of about 4.8 times around the world.
It all started in the early 1970s when, with a 3-year-old and another on the way, Val and her husband moved to Washdyke from Invercargill. There was no postal delivery in the area so Val collected the mail from Washdyke Flat Rd depot, opposite where Beaurepaires is now.
After three years she applied for a postie position and became a reliever for 18 months before getting a permanent job.
Her children were 6 and 3 by this stage but juggling babysitters for the morning start was not too bad, she said. The hardest part was getting back on a bicycle for the first time in 15 years.
The basic single speed bike was hard going and her lack of fitness did not help.
"I used to ride half way up Old North Rd, nearly collapse and walk the rest of the way. People used to stop and ask if I wanted a tow."
As technology improved over the years, fewer letters were sent, so a postie's round was increased.
A lot of current mail is packages from online shopping sites.
Val now completes a 20km, 2 -hour circuit each day covering Washdyke industrial and residential areas, out to Phar Lap Raceway, Meadows Rd, Hilton Highway, Jellicoe Rd and Mahoneys Hill.
With a better bike which boasts five gears, Val can now cycle all the way up the hills.
The 63-year-old loves meeting people and is well known by many householders.
"I hear lots of gossip, but I don't pass it on."
The worst part of the job is not the rain, according to Val, but the dogs. She recalls being chased by a corgi along Hilton Highway years ago. It sunk its teeth into her leg. "The little ones have the spiky teeth."
Dogs remain a nuisance for posties, despite the council responding to complaints.
"The owners just let them out again . . . I yell at them and it makes me cycle faster."
Traffic could also be "scary".
"The big trucks come rumbling along and cut into the cycle lane."
A few spills have made her grateful for the helmet laws. In the past she'd bang her head; now she cracks her helmet instead.
And though she is close to retirement age, Val still thinks she has at least another five years left in her.
- © Fairfax NZ News