2013 Summer with Alexou

Alexou flagWe spent part of the 2013 summer with Alexou, Marc’s 17 year-old nephew and godson (who hails from Toulouse, France).

The first part of Alexou’s trip was in San Francisco: Alexou had always dreamed of seeing the Golden Gate bridge, so decided to pick him up at the San Francisco airport.  We drove down to California with a mandatory stop in Napa Valley to sample some wines and visit our friends at Eagle Eye Winery (check out our Blog under “Voyages / USA).  Bill and Roxanne’s welcome is always superb, and it’s a pleasure to drive a little bit off the beaten path to be treated like royalty in a much more serene environment …

After meeting Alexou, we proceeded to do all the touristy things in “the City by the Bay”.  We visited Alcatraz, wandered around Fisherman’s Wharf, drove down the crooked street, rode the cable cars, enjoyed a couple of guided tours and, instead of simply showing Alexou the Golden Gate bridge, we decided to walk across it.  The bridge was of course shrouded in fog, and the temperature changed from 12 degrees to 39 degrees in a matter of a few minutes or a few kilometres, but that’s par for the course in San Francisco…

 

We drove back up to Canada with a very beautiful – but very windy and cccccold detour along the Oregon Coast

Then we started showing Alexou our own beautiful corner of the world.  Alexou discovered Victoria on daily bike rides around the city (Marc drew a big circle, centered at our house, and they rode through eight different “slices” of the pie, one day at a time).  We also went hiking on the very pretty Cowichan River footpath (where Alexou had his first taste of river swimming) and where we were expecting Ewoks to come flying over the ferns at every turn …

We also visited Butchart Gardens and their superb Saturday Night Fireworks, played some mini-golf, introduced Alexou to go-kart driving (he sure seemed to have fun) and went to Prospect Lake where Rob and Geraldine took Alexou water skiing (another first for Alexou).

Whale watching is also a must for visitors, but the weather and the whales have to co-operate.  On our first trip (towards Sooke), a fog patch descended very quickly upon us and we basically saw a sea of white, a marooned lighthouse, a few group of sea lions and seals, and a lonely otter.  Fortunately, the good folks at Orca Spirit took us for another three hour tour, free of charge.  This second trip, towards Cordova Bay and Sidney, was more successful, and we followed a couple of orcas, brother and sister, for quite a while as they hunted for seals and made their way north.

The next excursion took Marc, Ryan and Alexou to the mainland, past Hope and up the Fraser Canyon to Boston Bar and our favourite Rafting company: REO Rafting and the great guides led by Bryan Fogelman.  Marc has done over 20 trips on the Nahatlash River, and Alexou was about to enjoy the beauty and magic of this great river.

REO base camp panorama - Copy

After some training and swimming on a pristine lake, the first rapids you encounter are called “Rose Garden” (long and technical) and “Meat Grinder” (a sharp right hand turn where we met a great rolling wave and almost flipped the raft).  So here here are a few pictures and a video of those first rapids:

 

 

 

The next section of the river gave the guide (Mike, a friendly Aussie – but aren’t they all ?) a chance to let Alexou “Ride the Bull”, and then try to let the raft “surf”.  In order to surf, the guide has to get the raft in just the right sideways position, in the right rapid, and let the undertow of the rapid push the raft back up against the flow of the river.  It’s a lot of fun, as we all sit at the bottom of the raft and the water tumbles in.  The only problem that day: Mike had a hard time getting us OUT of the surf 🙂 . Check this out:

 

In part III, it’s Ryan and Marc’s turn to ride the bull – and Alexou is grinning from ear to ear as they have so far paddled through rapids called “Headwall”, “Twisted Sister”, “Lose Yer Lunch” and many more : 

To end the day, a special treat from REO Rafting.  The water in the Canyon (Class IV rapids) had come down to just the right level to allow the first run of the year, so Marc & Ryan added on an extra trip with 3 guides and a couple of kayakers.  While it normally takes half an hour for this part of the river, they flew from one rapid to another and finished the Canyon is 15 minutes.  What a ride 🙂 

 

Grouse Grind Web Sign

On the way back to Victoria, they stopped in Vancouver and challenged Alexou to climb the Grouse Grind.

This is one of our favourite hikes and, as you can see from the sign, very very steep.

Not only did Alexou rise to the challenge, he did much better than we thought, and probably much better than he thought he would.

 We had told him to take his time and that the goal was simply to get to the top, but he found a pace that he like, and was hiking in tandem with someone else.  The kept passing each other until the very end, with Alexou finishing just ahead of the other hiker, and completing the 2.9 km climb in an hour and 6 minutes.

Well done Alexou 🙂

 

 

Alexou Cathedral GroveDuring the last weekend of his month long visit, we went up island to visit Cathedral Grove, where 800 year-old trees tower over a growing canopy of dwarfed  younger trees and fern and we lunch at Little Qualicum Falls, where we wandered around crystal clear pools and tantalizingly fresh waterfalls.

 

We also made a quick stop in Coombs, where the goats on the roof greet the visitors; and then  finished off the afternoon on the beaches Parksville to view the amazing sculptures of the Sand Castle competition.

 

On his last day in Victoria, Alexou went on one final bike ride with Marc … up Mount Doug.  They had driven up to the top earlier, and enjoyed the 360o view.  They had also talked a few times about trying to ride to the top, and Alexou finally decided to give it a go.

This is a short but steep climb, where the last kilometre boasts an AVERAGE 12.7% grade!  Marc offered to take a break on a bench once in a while, but Alexou said, proudly and pantingly, that benches were for sissies …

 

Bon voyage, Alexou … See you soon …