Islands, view from Ruby Bay balcony

The previous post showed views from our balcony looking across the ever-changing Ruby Bay at the hills receding into the distance from Nelson.    This post will do the same thing, only looking out to sea at some islands.  One of the amazing things about this area is the fabulous light – it’s Provence light, the light that lured the Impressionists.  It’s soft, and glowing, and clear (sometimes soft and misty).  I’ll illustrate with some shots from our backyard; everything is just sharp and vibrant!

The combination of that light with clouds and sea is magical.  What follows is just a whole lot of shots (50!) taken of the same area out to sea.  I hope you’re not bored with these.  I can flip through them and be impressed with the changeling world, or I can display one picture and be just as transfixed as when I first captured it.   I’ve included more pictures than last time because Ginger gave up suggesting I decrease the number (passive/aggressive wins again!).  In my defense, I did a lot of work culling these from a much greater number, all different.  I just like them, so please humor me.  To help out, I have ordered them in something like a tonal gradient.  Of course I put a bunch of the best at the end ….

The world is amazingly beautiful, isn’t it?

Oh, I have more to show (the city of Nelson across the bay, with lights on, for instance), but I’m pretty sure Ginger is right and you will tire of this topic.  Besides, we’re off to tour the southern part of the South Island.  Next post is from the high-peak area of the Southern Alps, Mt. Cook.

Receding hills, view from Ruby Bay balcony

The view of Ruby Bay from our house is gorgeous – and captivating.  The sea is a chameleon, assuming every color you can imagine.  Further, its appearance changes over even short times, as clouds play with the light.  There must be a lot of factors at play to create what we see – clouds, wind, rain, fog, sun angle, tide, humidity, probably temperature, probably others, but mix them together and you have nature’s kaleidoscope.  We are often spellbound – dropping whatever we are doing to gape.  Because the view is partially blocked by houses and light poles etc, I can only cleanly capture certain segments of the view in the camera, and these I will show you over the next few posts – so there will be a lot of photos, and very few words – the pictures don’t need them.  It is hard to believe how the same view can present itself in such fantastically varied and wonderful ways.  The world is amazingly beautiful.  And I must say, there are many many more pictures I could show you of this same view, all different.  I whittled the images down a bunch, and then Ginger made me cut those by half!  We argued more than a bit over a few.  But don’t despair if you want more – there are more segments to share!  Hope you like them as much as we do.

Next posting – view of the distant islands.

Our House in Ruby Bay

I showed you Nelson in an earlier post (The City of Nelson – location, location, location; Dec 27).  Besides being very sunny with a mild climate (it’s near the top of the South Island), it is very close to several National Parks and a goodly number of well-regarded wineries.  We loved it for those reasons, but the clincher was the fact that the area is drop-dead gorgeous.  Before leaving for points south (recent posts), we rented a house to better experience the Kiwi life from something besides a suitcase.  It is a great house, with fabulous views.  Prepare to be impressed.  I think I will do a number of posts just from our neighborhood – you’ll see why.
First, the neighborhood.  We’re in Ruby Bay – a bedroom community without a single store – 3 miles away from the tiny town of Mapua (population < 2,000).  Here the post office and the only small grocery store are one and the same, staffed by the same people.  Mapua does have a handful of restaurants, a gas station, a hairdresser, a drug store, and 3 bar/cafes.  If you really want anything, you have to go into the towns of Richmond or Nelson, 30 minutes away.
Our house in Ruby Bay is up a steep hill; it has a good view of Ruby Bay itself, with

Nelson visible across the bay.  It has 3 BR, 2.5 baths.  Everything is downstairs except for the master bedroom, bath and lounge (Ginger’s study).  The living room and kitchen are quite nice.

There’s also a dining room and (my) study.  There is a downstairs wood-burning stove for heat, but that is it for temperature control.  The Nelson climate is temperate, so no need for AC or furnaces.  There are LOTS of windows that open (no screens), and two of the (glass) walls in the living room open up (to porches), making the house very open-air.  As a corollary, some of our best friends are insects.  The living room glass doors open to a wood

deck that goes the length of the house.  The views from the upstairs (and downstairs)

across the bay are partially obstructed but not bad!  The place has quite a garden, going down the hill, some pictures shown below.  There are also fig, orange, tangerine

and peach trees, and a LOT of lemon trees, loaded with fruit, which we use to make fresh lemonade and limoncello.
One of the advantages of this place is an incredible sunset nearly every day; they last for an incredibly long time, and cover much of the sky (examples below).

Of course, for all of these the transitions were equally beautiful.  Let me show you just one:

View from restaurantOne of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen occurred while we were at one of the Mapua restaurants on the bay.  The picture left shows the view from the restaurant looking toward Nelson, taken a previous day over lunch.  It is a pretty place, isn’t it?  So we’re having dinner, and the tidal river turns an amazing copper color.  We rush outside, and the world is glowing!  I don’t have my camera, but Ginger has her iphone so we are saved!  The

first picture is looking in the opposite direction toward the sea, and the sky is all but exploding.  The view is not just in that direction; the sunset is 360 degrees beautiful.  I think you will agree it’s spectacular.  We watch it glow and fade, and then go back to our cold dinner – but that’s OK!  A small price to pay for that display.

Ginger finding jewelsAt the base of our hill is the Ruby Bay beach.  At high tide it’s a rocky beach, which Ginger doesn’t mind – she has quite a collection of pretty stones, not to mention shells and sponges.  Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the Bay at high tide, just low tide, but the low tide will do.  The Ruby Bay beach is not as gorgeous as the one at Nelson (the Dec 27 post), but it will do!  It has breakers and birds and views.  A couple of views across the bay are shown below.  The weather on our side of the bay can be considerably different from that in Nelson, particularly regarding rain, which can lead to interesting effects – including rainbows, also shown below.

Low tide is when most people come out to play, the “beach” being sandy then.  It’s a great place to exercise dogs and horses and people.

North of us, maybe 10 miles away, is the town of Motueka with a beach that is connected to a very long sand spit that’s a bird sanctuary.  It does have a lot of birds!  Getting up-close pictures isn’t easy, though; the birds are pretty shy, except for the ones attacking us for getting too close to their nests.  The babies are very cute!  I’ll have to add the bird’s names later.  Pictures below.

Finally, I want to show you the first of a number of retrospective studies that I’m going to inflict on you, that show in stunning colors why we love our house.  Now, we have lived with a view of the ocean before, when I worked in Italy.  It was nice to see the ever-changing Adriatic Sea, but we looked out directly into the infinite seascape, and the variations in color were, we know now, limited.  The bay is another story.  There is the open ocean, but in addition there’s the curving bay, with headlands retreating into the distance; and perhaps because of the land, there are clouds everywhere, reflecting light and creating shadows.  Combine water, waves, currents, reflections, shadows, fog, light, land, cloud shapes – and the scene is an ever-changing riot of color, re-inventing itself hour-by-hour, and totally captivating.  We stop and stare a lot.  I’m sure it’s hard to “get it” via words.  The pictures below are my introduction for you, of what I call the overview; a large-view presentation of pretty much the same area, looking out into the ocean, the receding headlands, and some islands, and taken on different days at different times.  It’s a “teaser” for what’s to come – but I think you’ll get the idea. None of these pictures have been altered – you’re looking at Nature in all her glory.

That’s all for now.  In the next few subsequent posts I’m going to simply do a few more detailed retrospectives of Ruby Bay and Nature taken from our balcony.  There will be a lot of pictures.  They will be incredibly beautiful.  You will want to live here.

The West Coast

The Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea define and isolate the West Coast of New Zealand, a 240 mile long, narrow (18 mile wide) strip of land inhabited by just over 30,000 people.  It is the wettest part of NZ, getting 12-30 feet of rain a year (yep, that’s feet), often at tropical intensity for days.  The inhabitants are called “Coasters”; many are descended from gold and coal miners, and with those industries gone, along with timber, there isn’t much left.  Coasters are known for their independent thinking (often at odds with environmentalists) and their intemperate drinking.  There is some tourism – a jade carving (jewelry) industry in the middle and glacier climbing at the end – but it’s mostly people like us driving through with jaws dropping, looking at 240 miles of drop-dead-gorgeous (and empty) beaches.  You’ll see.


After making it over Andrew’s Pass, we stopped at one of the three largest cities on the West Coast, Hokitika (population about 3,000).  It’s one of the two main cities for buying “greenstone” jewelry and art, and therefore firmly on the tourist agenda.  Tourist magnetGreenstone, what the Maori call pounamu, is a hard nephrite jade, usually containing a variety of green shades within it.  It is beautiful, and often carved in traditional Maori designs.  The Maori practically worshiped the stone – it took the place of durable metals – and the Maori word for the South Island is Te Wahi Pounamou – “the place of greenstone”.  It is still highly valued.  Mineral claims are jealously guarded (and coveted), and because the Maori retain rights to much of the source, there is some friction.  The export of greenstone is prohibited,  and illegal extraction has stiff penalties – fines up to $200,000 and 2 years in jail.

GreenstoneLooking at the jewelry is a treat!  Each piece is small-scale sculpture, with whirls and curls and twists and cut-outs and negative space.  The picture to the left shows an example of greenstone with its many veins and shades of marbling.  We think it’s beautiful.

In addition to its craft scene, Hokitika has a very nice beach.  The first two pictures below are from our hotel balcony, where we are serenaded by the crashing breakers; the lower right picture from a walk on the beach.

BYO what?Yes, it is a tourist town, but we are impressed by some of the innovation being shown, such as this novel concept at a bar.  We order a pizza to go from down the street, carry it to the WC, order a good bottle of NZ wine from their retail shop, and settle into one of their tables.  How cool is that!

We decide to take a side-trip to the Hokitika Gorge and its acclaimed turquoise Hokitika River.  It’s a scenic drive through farmland and nearby mountains.  A short walk through pretty bush leads to what is indeed a very very turquoise river!  It looks more like someone spilled a whole lot of paint upstream than

real water flowing by.  The color is formed by glacier water entering the river with a load of  ground powder from schist and greywacke rock (major rock of NZ).  Judging by the color, that’s a hard-working glacier!


Well, in this segment I’m going to “beach you to death” with these pictures.  I am always mesmerized by the ocean – the infinite horizon, the parade of waves slowly moving in, unstoppable, the cresting breakers ominously rearing, the crash as they bash themselves on shore, the sucking retreat.  It’s nature’s slow ballet, danced with power.  To that, add beauty and color, black rock and white spray, wheeling birds and stately headlands, a salty smell and breeze; every sense of your body experiences the ocean.

The West Coast highway runs close to the shore, and around every curve there is another striking and atmospheric beach that beckons.  I stop so frequently to take pictures that Ginger starts to laugh at me.  I am making a big effort to limit the number of photos I’m going to jam into this post, but I’m not being very successful.  Let’s start with just a few pictures of the ocean itself, near and far.

Now I’ll show you a few beach shots.  They’re beautiful, many of them miles and miles long, and there really is practically nobody on them.


This is a bus-tour tourist destination within the Paparoa National Park – a stop-n-go place.  There is a large parking lot,  a souvenir shop, a cafe, a few cabins and cottages to rent on the surrounding hills, and not much else here!  Except, of course, the dark layered and weathered limestone rocks and a pounding surf.  It’s a pretty place.  We were impressed.   Pictures below.

WekaOh, and there in the parking lot we spot a couple of Weka!  They’re chicken-size flightless birds, and we haven’t seen them before.  They must be on vacation, catching the tourist sights like we are.


Well, believe it or not, there is more amazing coast to see as we head further north.  Ho hum.  More beaches.  Dime a dozen.  I’m stopping a lot less, partly because we have in fact seen so many, and partly because we have a ways to travel yet before arriving in Nelson, and Ginger is no longer laughing at me for stopping so much.  Rather the opposite, really.  Luckily, she did not pack the riding crop, but I get the message.  Pictures below.

Ruby Bay, here we come!  Wait ’till you see that pretty part of the world!