29. Discovering Ontario gems. Part II – Niagara Falls

The next morning brought sunshine. However in a concrete jungle of Toronto it was not always easy to tell. To me it seems that some streets never receive a sunshine because of highrises.

We had a truly Canadian breakfast at Tim Horton’s and headed out of the city. I like to start early – good way to avoid traffic and chance to catch good weather.

The road towards Niagara falls never seem to leave urban areas – town after town. For the most of its way the road follows shore of Lake Ontario, but it is almost impossible to see it properly because there are buildings everywhere. But some rare occasions to see the lake clearly offer amazing view of the lake and Toronto downtown across the lake. It looks very futuristic from this side.

The Niagara Falls is located in a town called… Niagara Falls! The Niagara river separates USA and Canada, and on US side there is a town called… Niagara Falls! Tribute to mighty waterfall all around : )

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Niagara River and the Rainbow Bridge that connects towns of  Niagara Falls, ON, and Niagara Falls, NY

The place looks very touristy and quite unusual. Road signs at intersection say Niagara Falls – straight, USA – left. And  right around the corner there is USA border! I am more used to borders with razor-wires, armed border agents and 500m of neutral zone.

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Luxury hotels, casinos. Must be really crowded with tourists during summer.

 

The road to a parking lot  goes along the river and the waterfall is clearly visible from a car. It was totally breathtaking. I could not believe my eyes, whether I was still dreaming or was actually seeing it. The waterfall is not huge. It is enormous! Actually it has the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world. On average, each minute 110,000 m3 of water passes through it and falls down 51 meters (a hundred and ten thousand cubic meters! Or a hundred and ten thousand tonnes of water. Two times the weight (displacement to be exact) of Titanic. Every minute!) It is unbelievable. Standing next to it I could feel its might, enormous energy that it produces. And it felt like it has existed forever, but in fact it was formed only at last glacial era, approximately 12,000 years ago. I could not stop thinking about how Samuel de Champlain must have been impressed when he first discovered it at around 1604 during his exploration of North America.

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Water is just about to drop 51 m down from the Horseshoe Falls
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The mighty Horseshoe Falls

The Niagara Falls is actually a collective name for three waterfalls – Horseshoe Falls, the biggest and the widest, the American Falls, just next to it, on USA side and the Bridal Veil Falls  also in USA. The Horseshoe Falls is the most famous and the most stunning I think. Canada is lucky to have it on its side of the border.

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American Falls and the US of A on the other side

I think it is better to visit it at summertime. It would be possible to have a pleasant ride on a boat or get on a rock that is really close. It was open, but I don’t think it would have been a pleasant experience at 0 degrees, high wind and ice-cold water. Another reason to come back again! Ideally I would like to spend two or three days there, there is a beautiful park around the waterfall, the town  itself looks interesting, and there is a lot of cool things to see in the area – like shores of Lake Ontario and the Welland Canal that ships use to bypass the Niagara Falls and sail to Lake Erie and further to other Great Lakes.

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A boat that takes tourists to the waterfall. Just like in Bruce Almighty movie.

The road back was quite long but interesting. First, I had to cross the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). What a huge city it is! It took me about 1h 30m driving on a highway at 100 km/h to cross it. And the highway is just crazy. At one point I counted 9 lanes in each direction, and almost all of them had cars doing over 100 km/h.  A huge city. The biggest I have ever visited actually. Second, the weather wanted have some fun – the bright sunshine and heavy snowfall were changing each other every hour. At some points, when I looked left – I have seen  low dark clouds and heavy snowfall, when I looked right – I have seen clear sky and sunshine! The weather in Canada is truly nuts))

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Driving through Toronto. How many lanes can you count?

And here was something that really disappointed me. The road conditions were the most tricky possible. The air temperature was varying between +1 and -2 Celsius. It could have been freezing at low points and a few degrees above 0 at hills. The surface was sometimes wet, sometimes dry, sometimes a bit icy. But 99% of traffic was still doing 110-120 km/h! Just same as in summer. This is wrong, people! The tire grip can change in an instant. No surprise when news show huge pileups of 100 cars. It is better to arrive home 1 hour later then to hospital or morgue 1 hour in advance.

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Heavy snowfall around next turn
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Snow and a bit of clear sky.

What an amazing weekend it was! 1400 km of driving in just 2 days (my personal record), 3 dreams came true (I visited town of Odessa, the CN Tower and Niagara falls) and 1 promise that I kept (take my mom to Niagara Falls on her first visit to Canada).

 

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