Niagara Falls: Inspiring Awe

Niagara Falls

For the longest time of my stay in the US, I waited for an opportunity to visit Niagara Falls. When a friend from Rochester invited me, I gladly jumped at the opportunity. Niagara Falls is accessible (with a valid visa of course) both from the American side, and from the Canadian side. I had to stick to the American side, for the lack of a Canadian visa. I had previously heard everyone tell me how the Canadian view of Niagara was way prettier than then American view. I never understood why.

American Falls

I had two initial reactions when I visited Niagara. One, at the risk of sounding like a borderline racist, it seemed that the entire desi population in the US (children and in-laws and strollers and all) had moved to Niagara Falls. The non-desi population at Niagara seemed trivial. Where were all the others? Second, no amount of pictures you see or videos you watch of the Niagara Falls is every going to prepare you for the real life experience. When you see Niagara Falls for the first time, you are going to stare open-mouthed at the sheer power and vastness of it, and the awe it inspires. The pictures you see here will do no justice to the actual experience.

Maid of the Mist ride

If you plan a short trip to Niagara, you can easily be done in a little more than half a day. There are two rides you can take, other than walking around and taking pictures. The first one is a boat ride called the Maid of the Mist ($13.50) that takes you all the way in front of the Horse-Shoe Falls. Let me back up a little bit and tell you that there are two major waterfalls, the bigger Horse Shoe Falls, and the relatively smaller American Falls. While embarking on the boat that takes you all the way to the Maid of the Mist, you get those blue alien-looking raincoats you can keep as souvenirs, that protect you and your camera from the water splashes. On a busy holiday, you are going to spend some time waiting in line for this ride, and being jostled around in the boat before you find one decent place where you can stand and marvel at the falls, without people stomping on you all over.

I had felt tears stinging my eyes when the boat took us right in front of the Horse Shoe Falls. I am ill-reputed to get emotional and cry during movies, but this was a different kind of emotion that it inspired, an emotion of raw power and awe. You stop taking dozens of Patel shots (no offence meant to the Patels in this world) and instead, look at the sheer power of the falls in front of you, realizing what a great creation of nature you are standing in front of. There is a spray of mist and multiple rainbows perennially present, and after a point, you will stop trying to get the entire falls within your camera frame, and just enjoy the view.

Horseshoe Falls with a full rainbow

Embarking the Maid of the Mist boat from Canada

The Cave of the Winds ride ($10) takes you through a series of stairs all the way up to the Hurricane Deck of the American Falls. This time, you will be given yellow raincoats and flip flops to wear, lest your clothes and shoes get wet. Be prepared to get thoroughly drenched, camera and all, there is no escape. Look at the sky, marvel at the falls, participate in the enthusiasm of the people around you, or simply get drenched. Honestly, the force of the water scared me, but it is just me.

American Falls and Hurricane Deck

A couple take a shot by the Hurricane Deck

I wanted to watch the night lighting of the Niagara, hence reached there later in the afternoon (~ 4 pm). 4-5 hours is enough to see Niagara Falls, unless of course you want to take it easy and go slow. You should also take into account the number of times you have to slow down because people in front of you want to take group pictures, and spend a good deal of time posing strategically in front of the falls, making “V” signs using their hands, or grinning funnily with their arms crossed in a heroic pose. When we finally walked over to the Horse Shoe Fall (a short hike, nothing strenuous), we saw thousands of people waiting by the railings and taking pictures.

A desi aunty, family and all, tried for a while to move us with some minor pushing, using her bum power. Then she finally told us to move because she was unable to get good pictures of her with her sonny boy (My theory was, she wouldn’t get good pictures anyway, given the lighting conditions and because she kept using a flash, but who am I to come in the way of unadulterated happiness acquired by taking Patel shots in front of every frigging place and pushing people with their posteriors in the process?). It was when I reached the vista point of the Horse Shoe Falls that I realized why people said the Canadian side was prettier. We could see the Canadian side right in front of us, separated by the Niagara river. This is what happens. Imagine going to a concert, and getting inexpensive tickets, only to realize that the performer is going to sing during the concert not facing you, but standing at an angle of 45 degrees from you, so that you could only see her sideways.

That is exactly what geology had done to the American side of the Niagara Falls. The view we got was a sideway view of the falls, while from the Canadian side, you could get a frontal view of the falls. We also noticed that the Canadian part of Niagara was way prettier and full of life, local bands performing, pretty streets, lights, little restaurants and all. Even the spotlights that were directed to Niagara came from the Canadian side. The American side, on the other hand, was less lively, no live music or lighting, and a very lukewarm ambience.

Horseshoe Falls

Niagara

That was also when the realization to my second question happened to me. Why so many desis in Niagara? Because the Canadian side was way prettier, and because Americans do not need a visa to visit Canada. So anyone who did not need a Canadian visa was already at the Canadian side of the fall.

Niagara

Niagara

In my humble opinion, the immigration authorities should revise and somewhat relax their laws, so that tourists can visit the Canadian side of Niagara without undergoing the hassles of applying for a visa. Just a little peek from the Canadian side, that’s it. No hanging out or spending extra time in the other country. The view is so breathtaking from the Canadian side that it is a shame denying people who do not have a visa that sight. Wish just a little peek, maybe for 30 minutes was allowed.

American Falls

American Falls

American Falls

The evening ended on a happy note. I was able to get some good pictures of the Niagara illuminated at night. Also, there were fireworks for some 5-10 minutes, when we were not expecting it at all. We came back with loads of happy memories of the Niagara. After waiting for more than 4 years, I had finally visited one of my many dream destinations.

Niagara

Horseshoe Falls

Do remember to check the timings for both the Maid of the Mist and the Cave of the Winds. I believe their timings vary with season. And yes, the next time some aunty throws her weight around, trying to get her pictures taken by cornering you, remember I warned you so.

Niagara by the night

Fireworks in Niagara

Canadian side of the Niagara Falls

14 Comments

  • Bill McReynolds says:

    Only 4 years in US and already sounding very ABCD!! As for so many South Asian visitors, I have wondered myself. Maybe the locals would rather go to a theme park. One year, my wife and I went to Disneyland on Thanksgiving Day. We had the same experience. Every South Asian in So. Cal. must have been there. This year, on July 4 weekend, we went to Monterey Peninsula…same experience. We joked that it must have been Andhra Pradesh Day (my wife’s native). You should try to see Monterey on your travels. Your photos and story are excellent, as usual, in this entry today. Thanks.

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  • Thanks for taking us to the great Niagara falls. The post is excellent with beautiful pictures.

    Thanks.

  • Vibha says:

    Breathtaking pictures Devasmita and you say that these do not do justice to the falls. I can only imagine what the real thing is like then. If it brings tears to one’s eyes, it must be an overwhelming place.

  • Virag Sharma says:

    Thanks for bringing back all those memories. of falls. Nice pics.
    Seems , Your 2nd reaction is very common :-) , same reaction given by my Irish friends in Dublin.
    We also noticed same, that too in month of January.

  • Nandan says:

    Awesome.

    I liked the comments about everything. I didn’t know that in US someone can do a Thumka. :-)

    Also pasting another link. http://www.ghumakkar.com/2009/08/14/niagara-falls-north-americas-most-powerful-waterfalls/

  • Shubhra says:

    Very neat post Devasmita…seemed like reading a story where you start imagining yourself at the place !

    Rainbows perennially present ! – That’s awesome.

  • AUROJIT says:

    Great description/pics of yhe mighty fall.

    Enjoyed Auntiji’s perseverance.

    Thanks,

    Auro

  • Devasmita says:

    Bill, thank you :) Do you mean Monterey Bay in California?

    Sandeep, dhanyawaad :)

    Vibha, honestly, nothing compares to seeing it live. I missed the helicopter ride though … it was highly recommended.

    Virag, how was your experience with Niagara?

    Nandan, I read that post as a guide while planning my trip. Although I was not lucky enough to be able to see it from Canada.

  • Devasmita says:

    Shubhra, yes, it was very beautiful … rainbow and mist and everything :)

    Mukesh, thank you :)

    Aurojit, yes, aunty added quite some entertainment in our trip :)

  • Devasmita says:

    Bill, I have been there, Monterey, Big Sur, etc. I used to live on the west coast for a while :) I was wondering, what are your favorite travel destinations in the US?

    • Bill McReynolds says:

      Devasmita,

      Most of our travels have been to visit family in Texas or New York. The beaches in North Florida are great (Panama City), as are the beaches and towns in South Texas (Padre Island). The South is interesting, Louisiana (New Orleans) to Atlanta and Charleston. All of the above places should be visited after mid-October, unless you actually want to swim in the ocean. Much too hot now. We enjoyed New Mexico, from El Paso, TX, north to Albuquerque. Beautiful desert areas and mountains, with world-famous chili plantations around Hatch, NM. From there, north on into Colorado, esp. Pike’s Peak (we were surprised that you can drive to the top–14, 400 ft). Mt. Rushmore is also beautiful, and then on to Yellowstone National Park. These are our favorite places. We don’t actually travel as much to cities, except to visit people! If you lived in CA, you have probably seen the Redwood forests and Sequoia Nat. Park. Happy traveling!

  • rc says:

    Great stories.Keep it up

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