Written by: NAVEENA ISRANI
Photos by: SATYAN ISRANI
“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.” This quote by the great African-American botanist and humanitarian, George Washington Carver, never ceases to inspire me whenever I’m travelling. So much so that my one-month long trip to the US seemed incomplete without a visit to two of the most spectacular natural wonders – the Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon.
Even though they’re both completely different works of nature and are situated on opposite coasts of the country, they strike a common cord due to their sheer enormity, beauty and the overwhelming experience they provide to visitors. And being intrepid explorers, neither my husband nor I wanted to miss either of these attractions.
NIAGARA FALLS: CASCADING BEAUTY
We touched down on the east coast of USA in the first week of October. Niagara Falls was first on our list because we were told that around end-October, some of the attractions are closed to the public as the water over the Falls starts freezing. Eager to make the most of our journey, we decided to take an overnight Greyhound bus from Penn Station (New Jersey) to Buffalo, from where we switched buses to reach Niagara. Beautiful green countryside, wide roads lined by picturesque cottages and pleasant weather greeted us as we disembarked at the bus-stop and hailed a cab to take us to our hotel.
To our pleasant surprise, our cabbie turned out to be an Indian by the name of Anil Jain. “But you can call me John,” he told us warmly, as we started chatting about life in the US versus India. John’s rags-to-riches story had me hooked – he had come to the US 30 years ago with just $220 in his pocket and was now a multi-millionaire who owned a taxi service company, but continued to drive his own cab! He said he toured various parts of the world with his family every year and even offered us tips for a Caribbean cruise. Wow! This cabbie was really in the big league!
We had booked our stay at Day’s Inn hotel at Niagara Boulevard, thinking it would be close to the Falls. But when we reached our destination, we discovered to our dismay that our ‘hotel’ was actually a motel on the highway, which was miles away from the Falls! On enquiry, we found there’s another Day’s Inn hotel close to the Falls, but because of the similar name, many tourists land up here at this smaller motel at Niagara Boulevard, thinking it’s the same one at Niagara Falls. More so since this motel offered rooms at half the price!
Anyway, our desi connection didn’t end with the cabbie; the motel owner turned out to be an Indian too – who else, but another one of those ubiquitous Gujaratis who have revolutionalised Uncle Sam’s motel business! True Gujarati that he was, Ricky (aka Rakesh) Patel was at his hospitable best and assured us we would have no dietary problems due to our vegetarian food habits, since his mother herself was a vegetarian! On Patel bhai’s recommendation, we booked a ‘Bedore Tour’ for the afternoon, which would take us to the Falls. Our bus driver-cum-tour guide, Ivan, promptly arrived to pick us up and we set off to view the thundering falls that have lured lovers, poets and adventurers for centuries…