Layers of Niagara

Come see the waters

Crashing down becoming mist

Flowing to the sea

I’ve never written a Haiku poem before.  We’ve never been to Niagara Falls before.  Both are more complex than they seem.  So far, we’ve discovered about five levels of Niagara experience.

Level one.  We’ve just arrived and checked in to our hotel.  Our budget didn’t extend to the flash hotels which offer “spectacular views of the falls (Selected rooms only, subject to availability and weather, terms and conditions apply)”, so we picked a place that’s one street back from the action.  Ok, let’s see some waterfalls!  Except, we’re not quite sure how to get there.  Here’s a likely looking shortcut, and a guy in a workman’s uniform. “Hey, can you tell us how to get to the falls?” “Um, not sure.  I think if you go through that parking garage and take the stairs to the street you’ll see a park, then …”

Level two.  Fortunately, the falls are pretty easy to find.  You just get on the right street and follow the crowd.  It’s late afternoon (because we just drove from Montreal).  The falls themselves are in two parts (well three actually, but nobody ever counts that teensy little one in the middle.)  The Niagara Falls themselves are the smaller falls on the American side, but the really big one that you see in all the pictures is Horseshoe Falls, which just happens to be in Canada.  And, the best place to actually see the falls is from the Canadian side.  We wander around, take lots of pictures, then sort of wonder what we’ll do to fill in the rest of our two-day visit now we’ve seen all there is to see.  Ok, we can come back to see the fireworks and the pretty lights, but basically that’s just the same thing with colour.

Level three.  We sort of skipped level three, but I suspect it’s the most important one for younger visitors.  If we want to see the fireworks at 10pm, we may as well find somewhere to eat.  Here’s where Clifton Hill comes in.  We know that tourists have been coming here for years, and should have realised that, where there’s a tourist, there’s someone trying to part them from their cash.  Clifton Hill is the place where that happens.  There’s food places, amusement parlours, about fifty haunted house attractions that challenge you to come inside because “80,000 people chickened out” and a random selection of street performers.  The streets are choked with families.  I suspect many have had that special conversation “Ok Johnny, if you’re a good boy at the falls today, I’ll take you to the house of horrors tonight.”

Level four.  The morning of day two dawns bright and sunny.  The ladies have that special look that says something is gonna cost us dearly.  “Can we go on the Maid of the Mist today?” Ah yes, the boat.  We saw the Maid when we looked across at the falls yesterday.  A bunch of crazy people pay money to cruise up near the falls and get themselves drenched in spray.  “Sure.”  We can’t actually catch the Maid from the Canadian side, but 11am sees us in a line for the patriotically named “Hornblower”.  I note that they’ve issued everyone with rather fetching red plastic ponchos, but no life jackets.  Maybe that’s because there’s little chance of surviving if we …… We’re off.  Look, snap, look over there, click – time for a selfie – ah, the phone’s wet – then we reach the real spray.  Picture a tropical thunderstorm that comes in sideways.  The world goes white, and wet.  Everyone goes “ohhhh –  ahhhh – yayyyyyy.”  It’s actually pretty cool getting up close and personal with one of the wonders of the world.  Sure, we’ve looked at the falls, but feeling them is a whole different experience.

Level five.  Through the joys of social media, a couple of our group get the tip that we need to visit a place called Niagara on the Lake.  It’s not far away, and we have a car, so why not.  All aboard, have another little negotiation with the GPS, then we’re off.  What a pretty drive.  Look at the …, hey, I wonder why all those people have stopped there?  By a sort of stumbling and bumbling process, we manage to discover a hundred-year-old Aero Car ride across the river, a floral clock (yes, we did stop), lots of golf courses, a pretty little town and a house for sale – estimated price $11 million.  Then, we reach the spot where the Niagara River flows out into Lake Ontario.  So, this peaceful spot is where all that rushing crashing noisy water from the falls ends up.  And, we would never have known if we just looked at the falls, ticked off another spot on our list and moved on.

Addendum – Day three – morning.  Our flight on the crop duster from Hamilton to Calgary doesn’t leave until early evening so we have time for one more look at the falls.  I’ve been trying to convince the rest of the team that a walking trip into the US would be heaps of fun.  After all, what’s the worst that could happen.  Ok, so we could be detained on the wrong side of the border, miss our flight, and spend the next forty-eight hours trying to get to the other side of the country, but what else could go wrong?

To our collective surprise, our pedestrian entry into the US is seamless, and the re-entry into Canada is just as simple.  And – the view of the top of the falls from the American side is just amazing.  It’s so good, we’d strongly recommend it to anyone else who comes to the Falls.  So – maybe that rates as a Level six.


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