There are some days of travel that you know are going to be more significant than others, some sights that rank highly of your must-see list, some experiences you’ll reminisce about the rest of your days – Niagra Falls was earmarked to be one such day, place and experience.
This even more so in the context of this journey. It’s significance is perhaps best summed up by a conversation I had with a dear friend from home who, in an attempt to romanticise my plight before leaving, pictured me shedding a tear by a fountain in Italy to which I delicately replied “Screw that, I’m going to wail at Niagra Falls!”, I even bought a camera with a panoramic function to capture the moment. Yes, today loomed large with expectation and emotion. I didn’t know what would happen only that the experience would be powerful.
Dawn, Sue and I set out for our excursion in the rain which, although appropriately affecting, we hoped would clear – it worsened. Sue chose a route designed to maximise the dramatic reveal of the falls but torrential rain created a curtain we couldn’t see through. We parked and had a picnic in the car until the rain eased a little. We then made our dash to the lookout.
As we approached, I could hear the thundering water as my anticipation rose. A thick fog obscured the view as I followed Dawn and Sue’s commentary of what I ought to be seeing. I had no concept of where I was in relation to the actual falls so when we arrived at the lookout, all that rising emotion just fell flat as I finally got the picture I just couldn’t see – total whiteout, save for a few meters of rushing water disappearing over a precipice, to somewhere beyond my view.
Sue has lost count of the number of times she’s been to the falls over the years but puts it somewhere over 40 in all kinds of weather from sunshine to snow – until today, she had never not seen the falls! In a laugh or cry moment, I chose to laugh. It served me right for being so melodramatic.
Dawn and Sue weren’t prepared to give up just yet though. We went for a drive around the tack-o-rama town that has evolved to service the tourist trade over many years before conceding that it might be a good idea to pop in to the IMAX and watch the Niagra Falls film to at least get a concept of what we still hoped to see later in the day. I wondered at that stage if I should get my camera out to get a panorama of the screen.
The session ended, the weather remained the same as did Dawn and Sue’s conviction that I would see the falls, we just needed more time for the fog to burn off! We drove upstream a while where we finally saw some water at the rivers bend, I used my panoramic function just in case! We drove through the nearby wine region past impossibly affluent homes and all the way to the town of Niagra-on-the-Lake, home to the oldest existing golf course in North America. In honour of my Dad, we decided to stop in for a drink which turned into dinner – all the while, the fog outside just got thicker.
We all knew in our hearts that it was a lost cause, none the less, Dawn and Sue’s enormous hearts also had room for one last try. Now dark and foggy, the same few feet of water rushed by not conceding an inch. I took a few moments to myself to just be in the moment – I wanted so desperately to feel something shake loose, be released and wash away. I searched inside for something to surrender and found exactly that which I was looking at – stubborn fog obscuring the view.
I had to acknowledge the absolute poetic perfection of it all. In the introduction to this blog, I spoke of the feeling of standing on a precipice poised to step off into an oblivion I couldn’t see. Today Niagra Falls gifted me as true a representation of that than even this drama queen could have imagined. My ears filled with the sheer power of the thundering water echoed only by my heart set to burst. I felt the churn of another laugh or cry moment – this time I chose a little of both.
We drove home in silence. One day I’ll return to Niagra Falls hopefully in sunnier times but for today, it was perfect.