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09 April 2012

Trip to Niagara Falls

Unlike what we pronounce it in India, it is Nia-ga-ra falls and not Nia-gra falls....
Well, after three days of vacillation, today I decided to go to Niagara falls. As mentioned in my previous post, I had rented out a car for the weekend here in Batavia. Over the last three days, I used it only twice or thrice just to drive around in the Batavia town. I would have driven that car for about 10 Kilometers maximum over the last two days. 
Well that was my experience of driving a car with an unfamiliar steering wheel system, in an unfamiliar country with unfamiliar driving rules, before I decided to drive about 100 Miles (to and fro) to go to Niagara falls.
Given an option, I would definitely have delayed my trip to Niagara. For one, I was hesitant to drive down on my own in US. Second, I was not sure where was Niagara Falls and all the internet sites that I referred told about 'Niagara Falls on the American Side (also known as American Falls)' and the 'Niagara Falls on the Canadian Side'. Most of the information that I received told me that Niagara Falls look much better on the Canadian border. 
I was under the impression that there are two Niagara falls and the one on the Canadian side was the one to go to.
Another reason for my hesitation was that my brother freaked me out. Being the affectionate bro, initially he dissuaded my from renting a car in US. He told me that I will find the adjustment from Manual to Automatic transmission difficult. Then he told me that the adjustment from left hand drive, that we have in India, to right hand drive that we have in US will be difficult. And finally, he pointed that considering the risks involved, and considering that I will be here in US for only a month, why rent a car at all?
I worried over it for four days, but given that this was a long weekend, and taxi services are very poor in Batavia and finally, due to the fact that I was going to be alone in Batavia for three days, I had to rent out a car.
Having rented the car, I was hesitant to take it out. I was scared of the right hand drive, of the GPS, of the automatic transmission....
You name it, I was scared of it.
So for me taking the plunge and taking the drive to Niagara was quite a heroic effort.
I started out in the morning by about 9.00 AM. I took the 'Interstate 90 (also known as I90)' and headed west to a town called Tonawanda. At Tonawanda, I merged into I290, and quickly exited the same and got on to I190. Just after crossing the Niagara River, I took the Exit 21 and headed straight to the State Park.
Of course I am exaggerating, Everything was not hanky dory. I missed Exit 21, then came back, paid extra 2 dollars of toll, before I exited correctly on Exit 21. 
The Niagara river breaks out into multiple branches and each of the branches form one fall. The falls drain the Lake Erie into Lake Ontario. There are three falls which together comprise the Niagara Falls. The first and the majestic falls is the 'Horse Shoe Falls' which is better visible from the Canadian Side. Then there are the 'American Falls' and finally a small falls called the 'Bridal Veil Falls'. Niagara Falls are located between the twin cities of Niagara Falls, Ontario and Niagara Falls, New York.
The moment you park your car and are out of the parking lot, you are in the middle of the Falls. Your first view of the falls is invariably the American Falls. While you can get a very close view of the falls, the best view is from the Observation tower from where you get a birds eye view of the falls. There are telescopes fixed on the observation tower and you can have a very close view of the falls by paying 25 cents.
One of the best scenes is the rainbow formed on the river once the water falls into it from a great height. Once you are standing on the top, you can look down and see the rainbow on the water. Having only looked up to the sky to see a rainbow, it was strange for me to look down to see a rainbow. 
I was surprised to see the number of Indians and people of Chinese origin visiting the falls. Either these are rich people on a tourist visit to US or these are people of Asian descent working in the US. Either way, the Asian invasion of the US was well and truly in display there. 
There are islands at Niagara separated by the river. One is the Goat Island and the other is the Three Sisters Island. The state park is connected to the Goat Island by a pedestrian bridge. While the American Falls can be seen from the State Park, you have to cross over to the Goat Island to enjoy the 'Cave of the Wind' and the 'Terrapin Point' from where you can see the Horseshoe falls.
I crossed over to the Goat Island and walked a lot. At one point, I came very close to the Niagara River and drank some very tasty river water. It was awesome.
The 'Cave of the Wind' is a tunnel which will take you to the bottom of the falls where the water falls on the rocks. The cave was constructed using only hand tools since, the engineers were afraid of the damage that dynamite could cause to the falls. The hole was bored in the rocks and Shaft was created. The lift takes you down the shaft into the bottom of the rocks. The sight of huge quantity of water falling down on the rocks is a sight to behold. To go to the Cave of the winds, you have to wear special plastic overcoat which they will provide at the time of booking a ticket @ USD 6 per ticket.
Finally you come to the Terrapin point from where you can see the majesty of the horseshoe falls. These are the greatest of the falls and what makes Niagara as one of the world's greatest Waterfalls. Standing in Front of these Grand Beauties, one is overawed  by the force, the majesty, the magnificence and the power of nature. If you thought that you are great and invincible, these falls teach you humility.
There is a Food Court opposite the falls where you can get Indian food. More about that in another post.
Finally, after about 4 hours, it was time to say goodbye to Niagara falls. Like we do in India, my goodbye was more like 'See you soon'. I was leaving Niagara with the determination to come back to see the falls again with my family. 
As I sit and blog this, what were the few benefits that I got out of my Niagara falls drive?
One, if you want to do something, do it. Don't sweat it out, don't worry about it, don't make a mountain out of a molehill. For two days, I worried if I will be able to drive down to Niagara, whether I will be able to handle multitude of uncertainty. I laboured over it so much that I did not venture out for two days. However, in retrospect, I should have 'Just Done It'. Had I gone to falls on Friday, I would have been able to visit some other places on Saturday and Sunday.
Two, I got a lot of confidence and mental satisfaction of having handled the unfamiliarity quite competently. My self esteem and confidence have definitely gone up as a result.
Three, whenever I used to hear my US returned friends talk of driving on the Interstate, I used to feel out of place. Now that I have done it, I have done it !!
I feel good....

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