Feel the Spray

Trip Start Jun 12, 2012
Trip End Oct 18, 2012

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Where I stayed
Shangri-La Niagara

Flag of Canada  , Ontario,
Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Howdy folks,

Thankfully the three amigos woke up alive without being bitten to death by all the little spiders and critters that call our campground home. We had a lazy morning before packing up the tent and driving down past the visitor centre to the South Shore Trail which goes to the tip of Rondeau Provincial Park along Lake Erie. The trail was short, but the weather was warm and when we popped out of the brush we were given a limitless view of the horizon extending over the lake. It almost seemed like sea and sky had come together and reminded me a bit of The Truman Show. Because it was so warm, we decided to go for a swim so we picked a more sandy spot on the east coast of the peninsula and went for a dip in the warm, shallow water. It was just what we needed.

After the swim, we were trying to decide on whether we wanted to stop in London, Ontario which was just over 100kms away.or continue along Highway 403. Our roadtrip has been full of a lot of little decisions like this because you can either make a driving day to spend some extra time at the next destination or stop more often which limits the next day. Eventually we decided on driving onwards to Hamilton, but we couldn't find a suitable campground near the highway that runs from Toronto to Niagara Falls so we had to go a little bit further to St Catharines. We took a little detour through downtown Hamilton which was pretty big and the traffic was bad along Main Street.

There wasn't anything that caught our eye so we headed straight through to a campground amongst the vineyards just past the outskirts. Southern Ontario is a big agricultural producer due to its warmer weather and location along the shipping lanes of the Great Lakes. We passed through plenty of fruit stalls and wineries which was somewhat reminiscent of the Okanagan Valley. The rest of the evening was spent planning a very busy day at Niagara Falls.

After having breakfast, we were all in the car by 8:30am and enroute to Niagara On The Lake which is the town that lies at the end of the Niagara River on the shores of Lake Ontario. It is a very pretty, clean and green town and with many big mansions and Old English styling so it mustn't be short of a dime either. We did a tour of Historic Fort George which is actually a 70 year old reconstruction. Unlike Fort Calgary, there were quite a few activities going on such as a flag raising ceremony and musket firing display from the red coats; volunteers dressed in full colonial uniform. This part of Canada used to be part of the British colony after America declared independence. It continued to be until 1812 when the Americans declared war on the remaining settlements which resulted in a 2 year struggle which the Americans lost and pushed them back over the Niagara River. The activities we saw marked the 200th anniversary which forms a major part of Canadian history.

The troops were keen to push on to the waterfalls so we drove along the very pretty Niagara Parkway which runs down all the way to Fort Erie at the start of the Niagara River. Halfway down we stopped at the Brock's Monument which is a giant column dedicated to fallen Major-General Isaac Brock who died during the American War. Our next stop was the Spanish Aero Car which crosses the Giant Whirlpool just below the falls, but the rain started so we only made a quick stop. Next we drove through Niagara Falls Township itself catching glimpses of the falls along the River Road. We parked just past Horseshoe Falls and paid $20 for the privilege.

After a short walk, we reached Table Rock where the Information Centre is located at the point where Horseshoe Falls tumbles down. The sheer volume of water that flows over the falls is really a site to behold even though the waterfalls aren't that high. The other thing that makes them so impressive is just how wide they are and that it forms a complete half circle. Apparently the falls are eroding so quickly that in a few hundred years they will just be rapids. That doesn't stop the hotels and tourism business reaping the benefits of one of Canada's biggest attractions with many tall buildings boasting the best view of the falls right from your hotel room. Horseshoe Falls is separated from the American Falls by Goat Island which is pretty large. The American Falls aren't as impressive, but still better than anything I've seen in Australia. There are just as many hotels and casinos on the other side of the border as there are in Canada.

We walked along the boulevard and down to the Maid of the Mist boat tour which must be very lucrative because there is a constant stream of people onto the boat to experience a first hand view of the falls. We were given our complimentary spray jackets which is like putting on a giant plastic bag and when you are at the base of Horseshoe falls with all the wind and they spray it becomes pretty useless. It was still good fun even if our cameras took a shower. Next it was time to head back to the information centre. There is an elevator that goes down to the base of the falls where you can walk out to a viewing platform or go through a tunnel that pops out at 2 viewing areas behind the falls themselves. Its pretty useless to do because all you see is a wall of white and have no idea where you are. There is an attractions pass that combines 4 different activities along and around the falls, but in all honesty if you just do the Maid of the Mist it would be good enough. Nobody needs to take a helicopter ride or go up the Skylon Tower (Space Needle ripoff) to see the 'perfect' view.

It was time to checkout the town, but we didn't really know where any of the shops were. We took a look in the Fallsview Casino and the Marriot Hotel and eventually figured out that all the activity that didn't involve the falls was located down past the Maid of the Mist at Clifton Hill. We had some cheap pizza and walked down the amusement district which has all the usual tacky tourist things: Ripley's Believe It or Not, Guiness World of Records, Wax Museums, Fun Houses, Arcades and a Ferris Wheel. I was just impressed that they squeezed it all into such a short street.

We decided to hang around to see the lights come on after dark. At 9pm the big bright spotlights from the boulevard shone across the water to illuminate both the Horseshoe and American Falls in white before changing to different colours. By the time we had tried to take photos in the dark, our camera batteries were empty and it was time to drive back to camp exhausted, but satisfied.
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