Our dubious tour bus!!
After another 6 o'clock start we made our way back
down to Chinatown to catch a bus for a 2 day 1 night Niagara Falls tour.
We had originally wanted to go from Toronto,
but the cold weather had forced us to wait until New York, where we discovered that it was
actually a 9 hour trip, not the day trip we had envisaged. So the fear of
leaving America without seeing
the Falls had prompted us to book the Chinatown tour, much cheaper than the
rest, and with a slightly dubious safety record (several police-stopped Chinatown buses are found to have drivers without
The glass museum
We had also heard reports that the tours were conducted almost
exclusively in Mandarin, but fortunately this was not the case, and everything
said was in English first, Mandarin second.
Our tour guide was hilarious, a small, fairly young
Chinese lady called Maggie ('or honey if you want'), with a slightly odd take
on the English language. She decided that if everyone wanted to use the toilet
on the coach they would stink before too long, so locked the door and only
allowed us to go at rest stops. We were informed that 'if we stop pee-pee stop,
only pee-pee no food; if we stop food stop, food ok, and pee-pee ok'!!!
On the way we stopped at the Corning Glass
Museum, which had an
extensive collection of glasswares from as far back as Egyptian times, as well
as a glass blowing demonstration.
I have seen a few of these before but still
find it fascinating, Lisa had never seen it before and was amazed! On the other
side of the building was a section about the weird and wonderful properties of
glass, with lots of illusions, mirrors and magnifiers to distort our
perception. We didn't have very long here, but it was certainly a welcome break
from the bus journey.
The 'American Falls' at night
Close to Niagara
itself, we stopped off at a Chinese buffet where we had dinner. Some people
chose to sit and wait for us to eat, then eat somewhere different when we got
to the Falls. I can't understand that at all. We'd been travelling on and off
for 10 hours by this point, and when we get to the Falls, THEN they want to go
and sit in a restaurant instead of actually SEEING the Falls. We arrived at our
hotel at around 8.30pm and after dumping our bags we headed off with others
from the group to see the Falls lit up at night.
On the walk down to the Falls we walked alongside the Niagara River which grew increasingly dangerous looking,
with white crested waves raging down to the side of us. Suddenly we realised we
were nearing the edge of the American Falls,
the smaller of the two main Falls. We stood right above it, watching as the
lights shining from the other side rotated through the full spectrum of
colours. We had the rest of the night to ourselves, so decided to cross over Rainbow Bridge to the Canadian side where the
view is across to the Falls instead of down from the edge.
Checking we had our passports, we and another English
guy poked our heads through into the US border office just to check that we
would be allowed back in when we came back, on walked over to the Canadian
border control where they were (of course) very friendly.
From the Canadian
side we got a fantastic view of the lit up American Falls, and the comparative
trickle of the Bridal Veil Falls. We walked 10
mins further along the bank, and saw a strange coloured cloud in front of us,
the enormous cloud of mist created by the famous Horseshoe
Falls was capturing the multicoloured lights and causing a bizarre
light show of it's own!
It was getting late and we had been told by our guide
to expect a 6.30am wake up call so a walked back across to go back to the
hotel. Of course it wasn't as easy as that, true to form the same US customs
officials who had seen us 45 minutes before now wanted to grill us about what
we were going to do in America and why we had gone over the border (as if that
wasn't obvious). Over the past 4 months, my passport has obviously taken a bit
of a battering and along the edge, some of the glue has come off making it a
I hadn't noticed this until the guy barked at me 'what's wrong with
your passport?' I replied that I didn't know, what WAS wrong with my passport
....?? He repeated the question and showed me it, seemingly implying that I
might have tried to forge a passport using pritt stick just to see the other
side of the Falls. I just told him that we had been travelling and it must have
got a bit battered. I thought for a moment that I would be stuck there, 2 hours
from where we started in Toronto
4 months ago, but he let me through!
It's a good look
The next morning we left the hotel at 7.30am to drive
the short distance to Goat Island between the American and Horseshoe
Falls. Being so early we had the place almost to ourselves, the
first thing we saw was the enormous rainbow shooting out of the mist, forming a
complete arch across the water.
The roar of the water was phenomenal and we
stood for some time just taking it all in. After an IMAX presentation about the
daredevils who had gone over the Falls in barrels and things it was time for
the Maid of the Mist boat ride. I was particularly excited about the prospect
of the famous blue poncho and we were not to be disappointed on that front, we
even got to keep them afterwards! We had managed to get down to the queue early
and were first on the boat, snagging the best spot ‘Titanic style’ at the
front. As we got closer to the Horseshoe Falls
the boat started to lurch a bit more but there was so much to take in that
thankfully I did not feel ill! Up close the Falls appeared at their most
powerful, the wind and the spray were overwhelming and it felt as if we were in
a huge storm. FANTASTIC!!