Thursday, 11 September 2014

Over the top

"They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

These Joni Mitchell lyrics pop into my head as my bus arrives at Niagara Falls, the Canadian side.

On my left I've caught a brief glimpse of the falls and the Niagara River canyon, but I'm a little distracted and disturbed by what I'm seeing on my right: so far two casinos, high-rise hotels, cheap looking restaurants and shops, and even an IMAX theatre promising me 3D footage of the falls.

Some of the attractions beside Niagara Falls

Before I can get off the bus, which has arrived at the Fallsview Casino, a lady pops onto the bus to hand out $15 credit for the pokie machines inside.

But I don't have time to try my luck, I'm here on a day trip from Toronto and have about five hours on the ground to see the falls.

The development at Niagara Falls

Though it seems you don't just look at waterfalls these days.  Instead, my "Niagara Falls Adventure Pass" takes me behind, beside and into the falls themselves.

My first stop is Journey Behind the Falls (best said in a deep and ominous voice), which should probably be renamed "Walk through concrete tunnel under the Falls".   Given the volume of water cascading down Horseshoe Falls, I can't really see anything but a wall of water from one of the two "lookouts" behind the falls.

The "view" from one of the lookouts behind the falls
However, this journey does take me to a spot right down beside Horseshoe Falls - giving me a particularly stunning and soggy view.   The yellow poncho they've given me has become especially useful at this point as a summer thunderstorm crackles overhead.

Down beside Horseshoe Falls

View across to the other falls from the bottom of Horseshoe Falls
Next stop on my itinerary is the Hornblower - a ship that takes me into the mist of the falls.

It's another opportunity to get drenched and, as with the rest of my fellow shipmates, I try valiantly to take a photo amid the spray without completely ruining my camera.

For a minute or two, the Hornblower is completely stationary at the bottom of Horsehoe Falls, its engines working overtime to keep the boat steady in the torrent.   The water thunders down from above and swirls around the boat.  It's exhilarating.

Hornblower heading into the mist
Passing Bridal Veil Falls - the smallest of three falls that make up Niagara Falls

My last stop is White Water Boardwalk.  Further downstream and away from the falls themselves, this boardwalk takes me down to water level beside the level 6 rapids.

It's here among the churning, foaming and stormy flow of water that I really appreciate the volume and strength of the water coming down the river.

Beside the Niagara River

With my three stops completed and my departure time fast approaching, I walk back along the canyon top to Horseshoe Falls.

To my right, the streets are crammed with development of all description - from hotels and casinos, to restaurants like Hard Rock Cafe and attractions like Wizard Golf.

But despite all of their flashy facades and neon signs, they still pale in comparison to the natural beauty of what is happening to my left.

The three falls that make up Niagara Falls hold their own.

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