Sunday, September 18, 2011

King in the North!

Toronto – from what I saw of it was a pretty amazing place. While I am loath to compare places, it had a very Melbourne-esque vibe (right down to the trams aka streetcars) that was hard to deny. I’m looking forward to exploring it some more later this week.

However, I’ve already moved on, catching a rather unexciting yet somehow infuriating Greyhound from Toronto to Niagara Falls.  I’ll come back to that, because I first must mention how weird it is to be in a place yet not have really seen it yet.  The same happened with my first night in Toronto.  I arrived around 9pm, cleared Immigration and Customs and spent the next hour and a half navigating public transport.  I found the Bus to get me to the Subway and the Subway to get me to the Downtown and the Footpath to get me to the Hostel.  It was late, I wasn’t really sure what time my body thought it was but I think I’d eaten breakfast (I’m just not sure in which timezone).  It’s weird to be at a hostel/sleeping the night away when you have a very limited view of what is around you.  Exhausted and malnourished, rather than fall asleep I did the next logical thing.  I went for a walk.  The streets were dark but I felt remarkably safe, the night was mild and there were plenty of people coming and going and it was great to see the buildings lit up better than the footpath in the night.

The infuriating Greyhound came after a day of planning and exploring.  With no apparent accommodation available (in my price range) in the entire city, the obvious course of action appeared to be to fast-forward my plans to go and visit the Killer and the Rorminator in upstate New York.  Only, I hadn’t been able to raise either by email, I have no mobile phone number and it wouldn’t do me any good anyway, as I don’t have a number to call them on.  Saturday morning, isn’t always the best time to be making plans as both myself and other move very slowly.  I decided to go ahead and head to Niagara regardless, and hope things picked up, within moments of making that decision, Killer & Evan both came online and it seemed like this plan was going to fit into everyone’s schedules. 

With a much more solid 24 hour plan in place, i.e. accommodation, a bus timetable and a generally framed destination/timeline for getting there I went to visit the Steam Whistle Brewery.  They ‘do one thing and do it well’ allegedly, and I would find it difficult to disagree.  The tour was good fun, and they appear to be a very green (in both senses of the word) company.  Their recycling and power usage stories are quite fascinating and their reasons for having a single type of beer (a Pilsner) quite logical, at least the way they were presented on the tour.  They buy their heating from “Bullfrog” which apparently means that it’s clean, and get their cooling from Deep Lake water.  There are piped going below the surface of Lake Ontario that apparently provide incredible cooling powers, meaning no air-conditioning is required in the building/brewing process.

I followed that up with a visit to the Baseball Park, where I could admire the gigantic CN tower and the Roundhouse Park – a decommissioned roundhouse using for services steam engine trains, Thomas the Tank Engine-style.

The bus was infuriating because the driver seemed to have no appreciation of the need for a customer to know when he would arrive at his destination.  Constant demands were made of him as to where we had just stopped and how long to the next destination (at least if he wasn’t going to mention where it was).  He reacted quite negatively to this – odd, when all he needed to do was announce over the speaker and everyone would have left him alone. 

Regardless, I made it to Niagara Falls and once again put in a solid effort in finding the hostel, settling in, and then realizing that I really could be anywhere, and if I truly was in Niagara Falls, then I should surely be able to hear or see something to prove it.  Marching out without a map, in the wrong direction after ignoring advice from a Frenchman to turn right and then right again, I got a bit lost.  As we know, I find backtracking to be a tiresome exercise, so I pressed on.  I listened to the river rage below, and rage it did.  50-100m below me you could just work out the speeding white rapids.  I wandered cluelessly through neighbourhoods, following the bright lights to what I assumed to be downtown.  The lights actually represented the tourist district, and I never made it there, or downtown, but sort of slipped right in between them both.  I felt better though, having a general idea of the lay of the land.  And that brinigs me to here, needless to say, I’m off to see the Falls, before I get on with more planning and more randomly self-infuriating adventures!!!

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