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Niagara, five ways

Veena Venugopal | Updated on January 16, 2018
Finding Neverland: It is only when you see the falls with your own naked eye that you realize the futility of trying to fit something so majestic into a frame.

Finding Neverland: It is only when you see the falls with your own naked eye that you realize the futility of trying to fit something so majestic into a frame.

From the top: Helicopter rides offer fantastic views of the

From the top: Helicopter rides offer fantastic views of the

Travelling across the mightiest falls in five different ways

Sure, I was expecting to see the falls when I went to Niagara Falls, Ontario. What I wasn’t quite prepared for, was the number of ways one can do this. Driving to the town in a minibus with more seats than people, we swapped sides each time the bus turned to keep the Falls in the line of sight. They are spectacular, the sheer volume of water that was pouring down the edge of the rock. On a perfectly sunny August morning, the mist that rose from the Falls was magical and iridescent. Despite all the photos and videos you may have seen of it, it is only when you see the Falls, on the Canadian side of the border, with your own naked eye that you realise the futility of trying to fit something so majestic into a frame.

Zipping along

The Mist Rider, a zip line that runs parallel to and goes from the top to nearly the bottom of the gorge, opened in August this year. Even at 9 am, a substantial queue was building up. With the Falls to your left and a green canopy below, the zipline boasts of a spectacular view. It only gets better once you are belted up and zooming down the line. The seat-like harness leaves your hands free, so you can stretch them out and soar along. It is a perfect flight fantasy and the fact that it could be played out over one of the most spectacular views on earth makes it a must-do!

Touch-and-go

Once you have whizzed along it, it is time to make a closer acquaintanceship with the Falls. The Horn Blower, run by Niagara Cruises, are catamarans that take you as close as you could possibly go to the Falls. Put on the plastic ponchos and race to the top of the boat for the best viewing spots. The catamaran first goes to the American falls, then moves slowly along past the bridal veil — the smallest of the three falls, whose thin ribbon of white water truly lives up to its name. It skirts past it slowly and then takes you centrestage. The Horseshoe Falls, the semi-circular area which comprises the Canadian falls is awe-inspiring up close. The ponchos come in handy, the wind whips the mist around and you are certain to get drenched. Up close, it is impossible to not be stunned by the sheer size of Niagara. I shuddered to think of Native Americans, who occupied these parts of the world before anyone else, and the early explorers who would have come upon these waters, without the safety of a well-built boat or the familiarity of having seen it in photographs. It would have been nature at its most ferocious. It still is nature at its most ferocious.

Behind the waterfall

Now that you have seen the front of the Falls, it’s time to head behind it. Go over to the Journey Behind the Falls, where you don more ponchos. Go down the elevator and into the caves behind the Falls. Here the Niagara sounds like thunder and you can see about a fifth of the world’s fresh water crashing down in front of you. It’s a thick curtain of white, so endless and so quick, that it’s hard to fathom it’s a moving thing.

Speck from the sky

Having seen the Falls from the front and rear, you might be under the misconception that you have done it all. You would be wrong. Head to Niagara Helicopters and book yourself a ride. This 20-minute chopper ride is an ideal way to gain some perspective.

Glide over the Niagara gorge, watch the red earth give way to the blue ribbon of the river and the green blanket of the woods. And then come up to the Falls themselves. Sealed in the noise-proof capsule of the helicopter and looking down from a distance, the Niagara seem like a cascade in a doll house. Minus its roar and the perspective of depth, even the world’s largest falls can look harmless. Harmless, yet beautiful.

Back on ground, grab a meal at the quaint Queen Victoria Place restaurant, which has a large deck with clear views of the Horsehoe.

Wine for dessert

Yet, for all this there is more to Niagara than the falls. It is also wine country. Drive up to Peller Estates for one of their tasting tours. The winery has an interesting assortment of both red and white wines. Light, fresh and fruity, their Riesling is a fabulous sipping wine. The tour ends at an ice lounge. Put on the fur coats and sit on a block of ice in the -10°C room to sip the famous Niagara ice wine. Intensely sweet, the ice wine is made from grapes that have frozen on the vine when the temperature dips to -8°C. The frozen grapes are immediately pressed and each fruit releases a single drop of thick, gold liquid. The yield is small, but it makes the wine intense and sweet.

While Niagara Falls has a carnival atmosphere — with its casinos and Houses of Horror, upstream, Niagara on the Lake is a quaint little town. With tree-lined avenues, beautiful houses and gardens, Niagara on the Lake is the perfect classy foil to its more rambunctious counterpart downstream. Go on a culinary tour, visit micro-breweries or simply lie in a park and read a book. If it gets too quiet, head to the Falls for a wild night out. And since you’ve come this far, you may as well go on the Horn Blower night tour and watch a fantastic spectacle of fireworks while the catamaran rocks gently and the Falls gush behind you.

(The writer visited Ontario on invitation from Tourism Ontario issued by Destination Canada)

Published on October 20, 2016

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