Like Duck to Water, thats how I have taken to life :). This blog is the saga of love and adventures of a small duck in a large water body called LIFE....

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Falling for Niagara Falls :)

As promised, here I am with the extremely long post about our beautiful Niagara adventure :). Seeing Niagara falls has been one of my dreams for most of my life, though they might not be the widest or the highest falls in the world. So this trip was a dream fulfilled :).

Lets begin at the beginning. We had been planning this trip for quite sometime. We had to wait for summer as Niagara falls is closed in winters. Niagara falls is only about 9 hours drive away from Lexington, so we thought of driving. We thought we might actually get the company of a couple of Sri's friends, but later, because they had their own plans, it ended up with only us two going. And with only Sri driving as I haven't even got my driving licence yet {smiles sheepishly}. I was a bit worried about that, but Sri said he could manage. Moreover, we planned it in such a way that he'd have enough breaks in between.

June 30th 2006:

We left in the afternoon. We decided to drive upto Cleveland which is in midway to Niagara and stop there for the night. The drive took us more than 5 hours. But its been sometime we went on a long drive, so it felt good :). We managed to get hold of a south indian restaurant in Cleveland and enjoyed some mirchi bajjis (jalapeno bajjis :-D). Thats one part I love about the trips we take, we somehow manage to find a new Indian restaurant each and every time to try out some great food :).

July 1st 2006:

Saturday morning, we got up early so that we could leave early and reach Niagara Falls as soon as possible. But there was some traffic and it was almost 12 in the noon when we reached the Niagara Falls State Park. The American side of the falls is protected as a state park, so there's plenty of vegetation around. Our first view of the falls was this:

The one thats falling over is the American falls and the far away one is the Canadian Horseshoe falls. The Niagara falls consists of 3 falls - the American falls, the Bridal Veil falls (which is almost a part of American falls and is seperated only by a thin ridge of land called the Luna island) and Canadian Horseshoe falls. The American falls and the Bridal Veil falls are completely in the US, whereas the Canadian Horseshoe falls is half in US and half in Canada (the US-Canada border falls right inbetween and then continues in the middle of the Niagara river). The only sad part is that the falls fall from the American side, so there is no good view of the falls from anywhere in US except from the Maid of the Mist.

The Maid of the Mist is a boat that takes people on a tour in the Niagara river. It passes the American falls and takes the people to the centre of the Canadian Horseshoe falls. Yeah they give free ponchos so that you don't get wet from all the mist :). Before I show you the Maid of the Mist, let me show you the first rainbow we saw in Niagara :).

Rainbows are very common occurences in the Niagara falls, but it still feels wonderful everytime one appears. Its almost magical :).

Where was I? Oh yeah, the Maid of the Mist. Here it is:

Here is the American falls as seen from the Maid of the mist:

The Bridal Veil falls is the small separate falls in the right of the American falls. And here we are:

And this is the Canadian Horseshoe falls:

Oh man, the mist that falls on the people when the boat is in front of the Canadian falls is amazing. The feeling is indescribable. There was water falling all around us and mist was everywhere, its absolutely beautiful. I could almost hear this piece of poetry in my head :).

Niagara, the beauty of you is truly mesmerizing,
I stared at you so hard that my vision blurred..
What a rush, what a gush and yet a charming grace,
I came, I saw and I was completely conquered..

Its short and sweet and I call it "Ode to Niagara" :).

After the Maid of the Mist, we headed to the Crow's nest which is just a small landing beside the left side of the American falls. You have to climb some wet and slippery steps to reach it. But once you reach there, the feeling is wonderful. Its as if you are still standing there and are swept off your feet :-D (well don't try the swept-off-your-feet part - first of all you might not survive, secondly if you do jump and you do survive, the US government levies a $10,000 fine!! :-D).

After the Crow's nest, we ventured into the land inbetween the American and the Canadian Horseshoe falls which is still in the US and is called the Goat island (dunno why they call it that, there's definitely more space than that required for a goat. But it did remind me of mekedaatu somehow though I have never been there ;-) - maybe due to the similarity of names :-D). The Niagara Falls State park is well maintained with a tram facility that takes the visitors to various points and has restaurants/snack counters everywhere. Anyways we walked to Goat island and its a pretty big place. Here's a view of the American falls from the Goat island:

The tower you can see in the photo is the Observation tower from where you can see the falls pretty nicely. And the bridge is the Rainbow bridge from which you can reach Canada :). We also saw the Luna island (the ledge between the American and Bridal Veil falls) by crossing a bridge on the Bridal Veil falls.

The next stop was the Cave of the Winds. Here we were again made to wear ponchos and were taken down about 175 feet deep to reach the bottom of the American falls. There isn't exactly a cave. It seems there was one previously but some rocks came down and made it too dangerous. Now there are just wooden stairs which go very near to the falls:

The stairs lead to a deck called Hurricane deck, on which if you stand, you are a mere 20 feet away from the thundering Bridal Veil falls. We could literally feel the force of the falls and were drenched from head to toe. The poncho did save the upper part but about half of my skirt was drenched :-D. Here's Sri standing on the Hurricane deck:

Next we went to see the Canadian Horseshoe falls from the American side at Terrapin point. We couldn't see all the sides of the horseshoe falls, yet the effect is completely breath-taking.

We spent sometime loitering about and then took the tram to see a few more interesting places around the park. One was the Three sisters islands. These are actually 3 small islands lying side by side in the Niagara rapids before the falls. They are named after the 3 daughters of a general who are believed to be the first trekkers to the islands :). The islands are linked to the mainland by bridges.

We also visited the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center which had information about the types of stones forming the Niagara falls, the details about how water from Lake Erie flows as Niagara River to lake Ontario etc. We were also subjected to a stupid lift ride (supposedly a simulation) of a tour of the Niagara stone layers :-p. The other places we visited were the Festival theater where we saw a nice movie about the discovery of Niagara and the Aquarium of Niagara.

We had dinner at (surprise, surprise) an Indian restaurant, claiming to be a Punjabi dhabha blatantly. The food wasn't very impressive but was very filling :). After stomach pooja, we went to the falls again to see the illumination.

The falls are illuminated every day. The colours change every few minutes and its truly an amazing sight, though you can't really see everything from the American side. And July 1st is Canada day!! So there were fireworks. Actually there are fireworks every Friday and Sunday nights during summer, but this was a Saturday and the fireworks were specially for Canada day :).

The combination of falls, the illumination and the fireworks is delicious, to say the least. The fireworks lasted for about half an hour after which we made the way to our hotel and rested our tired souls for the night :).

July 2nd 2006:

Sunday was the shubha muhurtha when we stepped into Canada :). Yup we went to Canada!! Well, going to Canada is not really as easy as it sounds. You cannot really simply cross the border without passports and stuff :-p. American citizens don't need any visas and its enough if they have their passports. But as an Indian working in US, even with a passport, you are not allowed to loiter whenever and however you want into Canadian borders. So you need a Canadian Tourist visa. We applied for a single entry one :).


The main problem was that the Canadian Consulate in Buffalo, New York, which is the nearest to Niagara Falls, was not open in any of the 4 days that we were planning to be there. Had it been open, we could have got the visa stamped personally there itself, which would have been simpler. But since that option was not available, we had to mail all the documents - passports with work permits, I-94s, the application forms mentioned in the Tourist visa link, photo etc way earlier. I think we sent it by post in first week of June and received the visa stamped passports only in the last week of June. We thought if we don't get the passports by the time we leave, we'd skip the Canada part. But it looks like we were meant to set foot in Canada :).

So early sunday morning, we got out of US and entered Canada by walk on the Rainbow bridge.

The border posts were not a problem at all as we were to be in Canada only for 1 day. The Canadian side is blatantly different from the US side. The US side is as I said before, protected by trees. The Canadian side hardly has any trees. The traffic is almost next to the path of the Niagara falls and its noisy. It also was lot more hotter, maybe because of lesser trees. It may have also been just that day's weather :-D.

The view of the falls is really good from the Canadian side, as you can see the complete falls. Here's the American falls:

And here's the Canadian Horseshoe falls. More closer photos of that coming up later :).

The Canadian side also has their own Maid of the Mist. But obviously we didn't go on it again ;-). But we did catch a rope way on Whirlpool. The Niagara river after the falls, flows into a valley and at one place almost takes a U turn. Thats where the Whirlpool is. And there is a spanish Aerocar that takes you over the whirlpool, touches the US land and comes back. It was not a long ride, but it was nice :). The whirpool is actually supposed to be dangerous as it constitutes of several small whirlpools that can actually pull a man under and keep him under for days :-o.

Next we headed back to the Canadian Horse shoe falls to see it from the Canadian side. Its really good from Canada as you can see all sides of the U-shaped falls.

It somehow feels like the earth has opened at one place and is swallowing up all the water :-D. Maybe its only me {rolls her eyes}. Folks, now its time for a Niagara fact :-D. The volume of water going down in the American falls is 567,810 litres/sec and that over the Canadian Horshoe falls is 2,271,240 litres/sec (Note that it is per second!!!)!!! And this is actually the controlled flow!! They control it to avoid the soil erosion thats been happening over the years. The horseshoe falls were previously straight-lined and over the years have become U-shaped. Some more interesting facts here :). Here's us at the horseshoe falls:

The tags on our shirts are all-day bus passes :). And they have these buses every 5 min carrying people to various points. Next we climbed onto an inclined railway to reach the downtown area of the Niagara city of Canada. There are several big buildings there. It makes a nice contrast to have a completely natural waterfall and manmade building almost side-by-side :). We were just passing by a building called Minolta Tower when an employee there gave us invites for the restaurant in the tower. The restaurant was really costly, so we really didn't want to go there. I asked him how much would just a view cost. I must have looked kinda pleading, so he said he'd allow us in the gallery for free :-D. Well, the sneaky guy probably lets everyone in the gallery the same way :-p, I dunno and I don't care:). I was glad 'cause both the falls looked awesome from the distance.

We never did have lunch in that restaurant. We did get down and have a simple cheese pizza/veg burger in another one. After lunch, we went to visit the Journey behind the falls. The Canadians are in no way less than the Americans. What they have done is constructed a tunnel which takes the visitors 46 meters along but behind the Canadian Horse shoe falls. There are 2 openings to the tunnel which show the falls falling in front and the actual force. They are barricaded in such a way that the visitors cannot actually go near the ledge. As we travelled through the tunnel, we could hear the really loud sound of the falls. The tour also has an observation deck from which you can see the Horseshoe falls real up close and personal :). Yup, they did give us ponchos again - yellow ones this time :-D.

After the wet journey, we returned to the street. Stopped for some snacks and sat for a long time in a roof top open restaurant facing the falls, just watching the falls. Then we went on to see the illumination tower.

Its very big and has lights on 3 sides. These powerful lights light up all the 3 falls of the Niagara after about 8 PM every night.

We went on further again back to the downtown area to see the next attraction, the Skylon tower. The Skylon tower is the highest skyscraper you can see in Niagara. Its height is 520 feet and it has a revolving restaurant at the top. The restaurant is only for the rich people ;-). It also has an observation deck and open lifts leading to it. The entry to the deck is also not free :-p.

Before we actually went to the top, we managed to find another Indian restaurant (in Canada too ;-) :-D) named Guru and thought of having dinner. The place was quite crowded. Though the food was good, the restaurant service was pretty bad and we actually got a bit late for the falls illumination. Anyways we scurried back somehow and caught the fireworks from the top of the Skylon tower!!

The blue coloured blur you see to the right of the fireworks is the illuminated American falls.

After the firework show was over, we got down from the tower, walked all the way back to the rainbow bridge and crossed the border back into US. There were many other people in a big queue and our passports/visas/I-94s were checked before we were let back in. Then we hurried back to our rented Subaru and went to the hotel. That was it, we never saw Niagara falls after that. But I admit, I fell in love with the falls and I would love to go back again one day :).

July 3rd 2006:

Since we had finished all we had actually come to see, Monday was a bit lazier :-D. But still we got up and got going to visit some other places we had planned to, the first being the Niagara Power project.

The power plant powers full New York state (Times Square probably takes half of it :-D) and most of the states in the east coast. Sadly, after 9/11, the visitors are only allowed to the vistor center and not actually taken to the plant. The visitor center was pretty informative, but I'd have really loved to see the huge turbines. Right opposite, facing this power plant, is the Canadian power plant(they share half of Niagara after all) and hence Niagara is helping light up millions of homes in North America.

After learning a few workings of the plant, we went and booked tickets for a jet boat ride and headed towards Lake Ontario. We saw a small light house which was, it seems, used in the civil wars as a beacon of light. Its seems its lit daily even now, only the oil lamp has been replaced by a powerful halogen one :). The lake was wonderful. Its so big that you cannot see the other side, its almost like an ocean. No wonder its one of the Great lakes :).

We returned back for the jet boat ride. The Whirlpool jet boat tours have a jet boat leaving every hour on Niagara river. The jet boat carries about 40 passengers and goes in full speed upriver. The driver stops inbetween to splash the boat into the various rapids in the Niagara gorge. The travel is until the Whirlpool (the same one that we saw from Canada) and it was fantastic.

We went on the wet jet. We were given thick raincoats and lifejackets, but ended up getting thoroughly drenched anyways!! We sat in the 3rd seat and man!! Was it fun!! The feel of the air on my hair and later water on my face, when the boat plunged into the rapids was exciting :). The rapids were upto level 5 (our previous white water rafting experience was only with level 2 :-p) and I have no words to describe them. We also had some stunts like the boat turning round and round as if out of control and then again speeding in one direction. We were shouting and laughing all the time. We did have a group of Indians on the boat other than us, but most of the people were Americans and that too teenagers. All in all, was another excellant adventure :). Well, the ride was costly, but the photos were really expensive, so we didn't take any snaps they took of us :(. Anyways the memories are enough :). Getting dried turned out to be a bigger feat, I tell you :-p, as we didn't have a change of clothes with us :-D.

After the real fast jet boat ride, we went back to Old Fort Niagara, where the Niagara river meets Lake Ontario. We sat for a long time on one of the Fort walls enjoying the sunset on the lake. It felt so peaceful after a hectic boat ride ;-) :). Yup, I took loads of snaps including this beautiful one of an yatch and sunset :).

After one beautiful sunset, we returned to the hotel and found an Indian restaurant :-D, called the Tandoori and had dinner there. The place - ambience, service and food were really good :). And so another day was gone.

July 4th 2006:

The last day! We had to leave pretty early as we had 9 hours drive back. But we ended up seeing some more places. The first one was the Lockport Locks, Lockport cave and the Underground boat ride. It seems when Erie canal was designed, the 60 foot rise at Lockport became a head-ache for the designers. How could the boats travelling in the canal suddenly ascend or descend 60 feet? What they did was design a stepped-dam like structure called locks. So the Lockport locks were designed to be a double set of 5 combined locks - one for ascending and the other for descending. Later one of the set was enalrged to handle both sides of boat traffic, whereas the other one was made fixed to handle surpluss of water. If you didn't understand head or tail of what I've been saying, there's some more info here. Also the following 3 photos might help :).

As you can see, the water is locked and filled up so that the boat can ascend 60 feet :). It was a real nice experience. I had never heard of such things, but Sri told me that the Suez canal is also designed like this and that too for bigger ships!!. That must be one hell of a sight to see :).

The Lockport cave is actually a tunnel built in the Industrial age to provide water power to 3 industries. As I have mentioned in some of my posts, the Americans have a way of extracting tourism out of everything, even a stupid water pipe :-D. The tunnel is not much to look at, but the history of it was pretty interesting. There is some water in the tunnel, which is where they have somehow brought a boat and took us on a short underground boat ride. I repeat, they do anything for tourism. Had the tunnel been any smaller, I'm sure they'd have had "crawling through the tunnel" as one of the attractions :-p.

After Lockport, we started driving back home. But there are some vineyards and fruit orchards in the New York state, so we stopped inbetween to see some of those. The vineyards were only green with very young grapes as it was not the grape season yet.

Next we visited cherry orchards where we had a gala time plucking cherries from trees. Most of these orchards have a pick-them-yourself offers, where you can pick how many ever you want and then buy whatever you pick. Thats also considered an adventure here ;-). Wonder what climbing a tree would be called - an extreme adventure I guess :-D. Somehow it reminded me of my childhood. I really miss climbing those mango trees at Udupi and eating the raw sour mangoes with salt {slurp}. Somethings you just can't do when you are older {sigh} :(.

We also went to some strawberry fields and picked lots of fresh strawberries. The whole thing was fun and we got loads of fresh fruit :). After these breaks we drove down straight. We did stop for dinner at a Tacobell (or as Sri says Tacohell :-D) at Cincinnati where we saw a few more fireworks (as it was 4th of July - Independence day). By the time we reached home, it was about 11 PM in the night.

And so my dearies, the story ends and all lived happily ever after :-D (couldn't resist that after such a lonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnng story ;-) :-D)....

BTW, wow, I broke all previous records by uploading 33 photos for one single post!! Hehehe....


Thanu retorted...

Niagra fall is so pretty. On does not realize its greatness unless u take the Maid of Mist and get so close to it.

SID retorted...

wow ur travelogues are so detailed. I had been to Niagara before but couldn't visit the Canadian Side.
A very nice way to describe all that I missed out.

Deeps retorted...

>> Thanu >>

Yeah the Maid of the Mist is wonderful. I didn't really feel the American falls as the boat doesn't really go too near it, but the Hosreshoe falls are fascinating from the boat. Its as I said before, indescribable :).

>> Sid >>

Thanks :). There's a selfish reason involved in my travelogues being so detailed. Its kinda to make a note of what I felt that day and remember years later :). Another reason is that my parents and parents-in-law read my blog. So its for them also :).

Soumya retorted...

Wow!! The post was worth the wait yaar...I won't mind if I never get to visit Niagara now...Ur post gave me a wonderful tour...
Great pictures...I counted them 'coz I couldn't believe there were 33(he!he!)

Deeps retorted...

>> Soum >>

Don't say that. You must visit Niagara once atleast while you are here!

Hehehe I still can't believe it myself that I uploaded 33 photos!!

shubha retorted...

as always...admire your patience in writing these blogs! and man 33 pics?! got to take tips from u on that! well done! i loved that rainbow pic...dream of visiting the great day...

Deeps retorted...

>> Shubha >>

Thanks. And you definitely ought to visit Niagara atleast once. The crowds of people are pretty bad, but the falls is still really worth it :).

direkishore retorted...

I have been to Niagara about half a dozen times and still count on every chance to go thr, what a place!

Nice pics and a long post indeed :), brought back memories though.

Deeps retorted...

>> Shiv >>

Oh man, half a dozen times?? Luckky you :). When I was there, I was thinking how nice it would be to live there, you know. Then I could go and see Niagara every week :-D. Thanks :).

rahulv retorted...

Tours to Niagra Falls
Niagara Falls is a set of massive waterfalls located on the Niagara River on the border between the US and Canada.Tours to Niagra Falls provide information on tourist destinations naer Niagra Falls like,Niagra Falls B ird Aviary,Casino Niagra and Konica Minolta Tower.The Falls comprises three separate waterfalls: the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls, and the smaller, adjacent Bridal Veil Falls. While not exceptionally high, Niagara Falls is very wide.

for more information pls visit: