Over and Under the Falls

Unstoppable

The thing to do with giant tourist places like Niagara Falls is to plan ahead. We paid for our accommodation in advance, pre-booked a wine tour of the Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries, and got a wonderful two-day package of Things One Must Do that included public transit from our campground to all the sites and back again.

If we hadn’t organised ourselves like that, a combination of our tiredness, the oppressive heat and humidity, and the sheer overwhealming impact of the Falls themselves would’ve left us floundering.

We had a blast!

***

First touristy thing: Niagara’s Fury

Our tour group lined up (we did a lot of that) put on our rain ponchos, (we did a lot of that too) and shuffled inside a giant water tank. A 360° surroundsound, shaking floor ,water spraying, virtual reality, theatrical extravaganza, water tank.

This little guy, Chip told the story of how the Falls came into being. (the link isn’t Chips’ version. His is much cuter, but you’ll have to go the Falls to hear it. 🙂 )

Hi. My name's Chip and I've officially joined the Widdershins household

Hi. My name’s Chip and I’ve officially joined the Widdershins household

The household: Myrtle Moose, Mini Myrtle, Odie, Garfie, Hartz, and Chip (with his little hug-buddy)

The Household Guardians: Myrtle Moose, Mini Myrtle, Odie, Garfie, Hartz, and Chip (with his little hug-buddy) … scary, no?

***

Second touristy thing: The Butterfly Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Sadly we didn’t get to tour the gardens, my knees wouldn’t go the distance, but we did spend a delightful hour or so hanging out with these guys …

Mrs Widds and her colour coordinated butterfly

Mrs Widds and her colour coordinated butterfly

Mine - they had a thing for hats

Mine – they had a thing for hats

The butterfly version of, 'Where's Wally?' - Clue. I'm iridescent green

The butterfly version of, ‘Where’s Wally?’ – Clue. I’m iridescent green

Stripes. Iz mah camoflage

Stripes. Iz mah camoflage

Feeding time

Feeding time

***

Third Touristy thing: The Whirlpool Aerocar

The Whirlpool - A panorama

The Whirlpool – A panorama

I’m good with heights, but put me in a metal cage that swings from side to side whenever anyone breathes, and held up by twisted bits of metal? That’s a horse of an entire different kettle of fish.

As the water rushed down the river from the Falls, it had to make this 90° right hand turn. The water didn’t like doing that so it chewed away at the bank and eroded an ancient river gorge, creating this aquatic cul-de-sac about 4000 years ago. The water naturally turns counterclockwise (widdershins!) and if there’s enough water in the river an actual whirlpool forms.

It's big, really big

It’s big, really big

***

Fourth Touristy thing: White Water walk

We lined up in the foyer of an innocent looking gift shop and inched forward half a dozen steps at a time until the elevator doors loomed front of us. We entered with eight other people and waited for the operator. The air smelled of dark damp places that mere humans ought not to venture into. Down and down and down, the elevator went.

The operator, a young man, working a summer job, (what did he know of mortal fears and dank dark places?) asked where we are all from and some of us answered in a unsettling mixture of nervousness and excitement. He issued instructions that I couldn’t hear and the elevator bumped to a stop.

We were down at river level and surrounded by the wild roar of the Class 6 rapids 

It may not look like it but some of those waves out there are 4-5 meters (12-15 feet) high

It may not look like it but some of those waves out there are 4-5 meters (12-15 feet) high

 

The water scoured rock barely contained the constantly churning water

The water scoured rock barely contained the constantly churning water

You can see clearly here how the river has cut almost vertically through the rock – and a young woman conducting the wave orchestra!

You can see clearly here how the river has cut almost vertically through the rock – and a young woman conducting the wave orchestra!

***

Fifth Touristy thing: Behind the Falls

Different elevator, new rain ponchos, same spooky feeling, only more so. When we got to the bottom the elevator didn’t open out onto a wide open vista but a wet downward sloping tunnel that was 2 ½ meters high at most, and maybe a meter and a half wide.

Fluorescent tubing spaced way too far apart for my liking lit the tunnel and glistened on the runnels of water on either side of the narrow walkway, eagerly gurgling toward who-knows-what ending.

We gingerly walked along the tunnel, Mrs Widds running point in case I slipped. (a fall on this hard slippery surface would completely ruin my day)

To one side a gated opening enclosed the ruins of an old tunnel that had collapsed. As the water chews away at the front of the falls, the tunnels have to be re-routed. I was kinda glad our tunnel was shored up with concrete and not old timbers like these …

You can almost hear the tired old timbers groaning

You can almost hear the tired old timbers groaning

The sound of roaring water grew louder and we passed by another opening.  This shot gives you an idea of how close the tunnel roof and walls were …

Low ceiling

Low ceiling

... and this is what Niagara Falls looks like from within the cliff face ... watch your step!

… and this is what Niagara Falls looks like from within the cliff face … watch your step!

... and this is what it looks like next to the cliff face

… and this is what it looks like next to the cliff face

See that boat with all those people in red ponchos? That’s where we were going next.

See that boat with all those people in red ponchos? That’s where we were going next.

***

Sixth Touristy Thing: Hornblower Cruise

This was perhaps the most exhilarating thing we did, and the one we got the least pictures of, seeing as we were preoccupied with getting soaked.

We decided to buy heavier duty plastic ponchos than the flimsy recyclable ones they were giving out for free. (which will be featured in another of our adventures on the way home) And suitably attired, we boarded our boat. Thankfully it was late afternoon and the ‘sardine’ crowds were long gone.

This close to the USA

This close to the USA

Huge boulders at the base of the American Falls

Huge boulders at the base of the American Falls

From here on our boat got closer, and closer, and CLOSER to the Falls, and consequently our boat felt smaller and smaller. We put our cameras away as the picturesque mist became a heavy spray, obscuring everything.

The Falls, the boat, our fellow passengers all consumed in a downpour that rivaled the best our Winnipeg storms threw at us. Part of me wondered how our little vessel would stay afloat … but it did. The captain took mercy on his beleaguered passengers and turned away from the onslaught.

I’ve hung out under some waterfalls in my time, even skinny-dipped in a few, but nothing, nothing came close to this.

***

Back above the Falls again

Back above the Falls again

Tired and happy, we watched the full moon rise through the mist above the Falls as we treated ourselves to dinner at a restaurant right next door

 

Misty moonrise

***

Next: Why We Are Out Here

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16 comments on “Over and Under the Falls

  1. Thanks – I was there in my twenties, many, many years ago – and I didn’t do all these things. Now it is unlikely I will go, and my walking is rather unsteady, so I’m not sure I WANT to do what you’re doing, but your pictures are gorgeous – and I do have an imagination. Non-stop roar!

    Neon-green butterfly, lower left?

    Beautiful.

    Like

    • Widdershins says:

      I know the feeling. There were so many things we wanted to do/see, but had to choose based, at least in part, on my physical limitations. C’est la vie.

      Green butterfly – nope. Think a little higher, and middle-ish

      Like

  2. Wowza! Niagara Falls is one of the must-see places for me. The falls look loud! I’m impressed with the butterfly place. I wonder if they like being there.

    Like

    • Widdershins says:

      It’s hard to say. The conservatory is tailored to the butterfly’s needs and not the observer, we walked in to their environment, not the other way around, so that’s a good thing. Some species are so rare that they probably don’t exist in the wild anymore, also a good thing.
      But do they like it? Unknown.

      Like

  3. Kris Alexander says:

    You have me chewing my nails with acro-, claustro- and hygrophobia (howzat for a confession) and staring at the screen for a damn green butterfly I have not found yet… Aaarrrggghhhhh!

    Like

    • Widdershins says:

      The elevators are an excellent way to get down to the river and the face of the Falls, and I can’t imagine how people had to scramble before they were installed, but they certainly were claustrophobic. And not having any idea what they would open onto upped the adrenaline factor.

      Elusive little green butterfly, isn’t she? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Olga Godim says:

    Great post. I was there once, years ago, but I still remember the feeling of immense-ness the Canadian Falls inspired. Beside it, the American Falls looked puny.

    Like

  5. Wow, those butterflies are amazing!

    When we were at the falls many years ago, a lot of stuff was closed, since it was the middle of winter. But the frozen water everywhere made the place look like something out of a fairy tale.

    Like

  6. Erin says:

    The wings look like eyes!

    Love the description of your trip! I so want to go, now. Well, not right this minute.

    Like

  7. Great touristy stuff. Who could possibly be in the area and not go to Niagara Falls. Love your pictures from the butterfly conservancy too. So pretty.

    Like

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