The thing to do with giant tourist places like Niagara Falls is to (embrace the insanity) 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. 🙂 )
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 …
Third Touristy thing: The Whirlpool Aerocar
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 kittens.
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.
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
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 …
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 …
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.
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.
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.
Next: Why We Are Out Here