Forget Katy Perry’s lyrics, when 3,160 tons of water fall 51 metres at an average speed of 32 feet per second, all you hear is a roar
Just 80 feet from impact point on board the Hornblower cruise boat, the roar is enormous and we need to shout to be heard. And we’re quite wet in spite of the red waterproof ponchos made from recyclable plastic that we are wearing. If there was even a shred of doubt about the Niagara’s ability to inspire awe, that has all been washed away by the incessant spray that tastes fresh and crisp if you care to lick your lips. Cold and wet, we should have been miserable but we four friends – Aniruddha, Mahatva, Abhishek and I, were still picking up our jaws from the slippery deck of the cruise boat we were on. Because the Niagara Falls isn’t your everyday pretty waterfall cutting through the lushness of a post-monsoon Sahyadri (Western Ghats). Because the Niagara is the world’s largest waterfall by volume of water passing over its crest, and of the three falls that make up Niagara, the Horseshoe Falls or Canadian Falls that we were squinting at is the largest of them all at 790 metres wide. Because this is the Niagara.
Our journey to the deck of the cruise boat starts a couple of months before when we all decided on a boys-only road trip and picked Canada as our choice of destination. For years we have all heard of Canada but always as an add-on to a tour of the USA. Always a bit of an afterthought. Given our penchant for doing even the usual with a twist of the unusual, we decided to head off to Canada, which only Abhishek had been to before. So for all practical purposes Canada was virgin territory for our group and therefore cause for a little extra excitement.
Getting a Canadian tourist visa turned out to be easier than lasting eight hours in an aluminium tube from Mumbai to Munich and then another eight to Toronto. Our plan was simple. Get to Toronto. Take a cab to Bolton where we had pre-booked an RV and head to Niagara, where we would camp out in the RV at a site purpose built for RVs and camping enthusiasts at the edge of the town.
Having never used one before, driving the huge RV down a Canadian highway turns out to be quite the adventure and takes time getting used to. Once we are comfortable with its lazy dynamics however, we quickly settle into the leisurely pace and the relaxed nature of the thing. We pull in to our pre-arranged camp site at half past nine with no time to spare to go and catch the fireworks over the Niagara that only happen on certain nights. Our thoughts though are less grand and all we can think of is food for we are famished.
At this juncture we discover one of Mahatva’s hidden skills, cooking. Who would have thought that the Captain of a commercial aeroplane would also be able to show such brilliance when it came to the culinary arts. Dinner is a delectable combination of bread, lentils, chicken and pan grilled meat. All of it washed down with excellent maple whiskey that we have picked on one of our stops en route.
We wake up the following morning to soft rays of the Ontario Sun filtering through the red, ochre, orange and yellow canopy of a Canadian Fall above us. But we have no time to wonder at such magic for we have a boat to catch – the Hornblower. And so we find ourselves at 80 feet from the impact point, where 3,160 tons of water crashed down 51 metres every second, needing us to shout to be heard. Where in spite of our red waterproof ponchos, we are sodding wet, yet not miserable.
An hour later, we are all dripping water on the concrete jetty at the bottom of the funicular that will take us back to the top of the cliff from where we have descended in the morning. We are as excited as young pups who have just spotted a bright red ball. If you think that there’s only one way to see the awesomeness that is Niagara, you’re mistaken. Not only can you catch the awe inspiring falls from the front and from the boat, you can also opt for the Journey Behind the Falls.
We cut across the massive public parking and descend into the cliff face, clad now in yellow ponchos. Our first stop is a concrete platform right at the edge of the Horseshoe. From here we see the entire mass of water tumbling into the mist below. It gives us perspective on just how big the whole thing really is. Something you can’t really gauge through the squinting eyes on the boat. We head back into the shaft tunnel that will lead us back to the escalator and the lobby that is also a café-cum-souvenir shop but instead we are led off at an angle through 130-year-old tunnels dug out behind the wall of the cliff. Two apertures in the rock face offer a glimpse of that wall of water falling off, from behind. It’s quite mesmerising.
Equally mesmerising is the view of the falls from the Table Rock House restaurant, which is located right at the edge of the cliff from where the Horseshoe starts. Unfortunately for us, we are too famished to really care. Our attention instead is commandeered by the excellent food that our hosts at the Table Rock House restaurant have dished up for us. The tale though doesn’t end with the choice dessert that we are served, as we head to our last and final stop for the day. The heliport of the Niagara Helicopters company. These guys have been running helicopter tours over the Falls, along with other customised tours since 1961 and have a fantastic safety record (something I would certainly want to see before getting into that chopper).
Niagara from the air is a completely different experience altogether and the chopper ride turns out to be the ride of our lives. If we squint and peer to the North we can just about make out the outline of Toronto while to the South lies Lake Erie. But all of these are just trivia as the snaking Niagara river and the Falls create a spectacle unlike anything we have seen before. We turn and look at each other, too gobsmacked to be able to say anything. It’s only when we’re back on land that we open up excitedly like a soda bottle that has just been popped. We can’t stop talking about the Niagara and the views and somewhere deep down we realise that Canada has already started sewing our four lives together with a thread that will forever remain a constant.
“JUST 80 FEET FROM IMPACT POINT ON BOARD THE HORNBLOWER CRUISE BOAT, THE ROAR IS ENORMOUS AND WE NEED TO SHOUT TO BE HEARD”