Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Falls!

How do I possibly start this post without saying WOW? OOPS, just did. 

What an experience.  It was quite a different one to the Grand Canyon or The Great Wall or the Pyramids.  Perhaps these Great Wonder experiences shouldn’t be compared in this way.  For those others, I sort of had moments where I just stood there, sometimes pointed, but always with a completely dumbstruck or incredulous look on my face. 

This time, I literally was out for a jog, with my camera and I had the intention of having a look and then going back to the hostel to get changed, and change to go back for my real  look.  Well, even the ability that I could just go for a jog, and see this amazing place contributed to my experience of it.  I don’t think I can stress enough just how much of an impact.  They are so accessible, that it is comical.  And so comical, that rather than standing incredulous, I was swaying with a ridiculously comical look on my face.  I didn’t stop grinning for about 4 hours.  Of course, I never made it back to the hostel in that time.

Actually as it happened, I still had no map, so while out on my run on Sunday, I first encountered the tourist district.  It was like one giant big side-show alley.  Complete with greasy smelling food, lame attractions, haunted houses and cheap trinkets.  An entire city built up around these amazing Falls.  I kept running, knowing that the Falls were off to my left, but not exactly sure where.  I did ultimately cut left, only to realize that I had run so far that I was now upstream of them (my hostel was at least a kilometre or two downstream).

From a long way off, you can feel the mist on your face.  The water thrown up by the violent impact at the bottom of the millions of bathtubs of water pouring over the Falls every second.  

The mist is so big that it ascends up above the Falls and was the first thing that I could see as I crested the hill near the Marriot Hotel. I actually had a long way to go down to get to the popular viewing platforms, but so much the better view for it.  

As I wound my way down the streets around the Casino and hotels, in prime position for a wake-up view of the Wonder, I caught glimpses through the trees. 

I could hear it, but it certainly was not the thunder that I was expecting.  I crossed streets and wound my way around hot dog and ice cream stands and then, there I was.  

Directly across the way were The American Falls.  Crashing straight down onto rocks below, how they haven’t been rubbed or washed away over thousands of years I can’t imagine.  They are a straight line on the not-so-distant horizon.  An amazing sight!

Off to the right, are the even more famous Horseshoe Falls.  The semicircular Falls that we all know from a thousand postcards and photographs.  And they were just there, for anyone who happened to be “walking past”. 

There is a boat called the Maid in the Mist that can take you right into the Horseshoe Falls to see them right up close and personal.  It must be a great experience, equally wet and terrifying and powerful.  The cost was not disagreeable, but it certainly seemed like an experience best shared with others (that you like), not something to do on your own.  Not having done it, I think I would still recommend it (hint hint, DJ & Christie!), but I satisfied myself walking around them (just at the very top you could practically reach your hand through the railing and touch the water.  There were no security guards or really anything much to stop the suicidal or stupid from hopping in the water and quite quickly being carried over the drop!

I kept walking upstream and saw the almost 100 year old barge teetering near the top threatening to go over.  I walked through the nearby gardens, a nice respite from the mist rain and the tourists that were everywhere (how dare they).  Upstream, it’s quite a different place altogether. I imagine, if you were to follow the downstream, for the very first time, you would have no idea what you were up for!  A huge crashing waterfall!  FREAKOUT!

Such an experience.  Had I realized just how simple it was, I would have crossed the Rainbow Bridge into the States (just crazy that you could throw a rock across this river and it would suddenly be in another country) and see the American Falls – even just about touch them.  However on Sunday, I thought it was going to be a mammoth bureaucratic experience to get in, I saved that for yesterday.  But that, as Douglas Adams says…is not this story.

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