Have you seen the Niagara Falls in winter?
By the time I wrapped up a very short New York City visit with an intention to go to Niagara Falls almost every weather forecasting apps invariably warned of arctic temperature. But we decided to go ahead with our plan. November to March is an offseason for Niagara may be because the winter won’t allow a clear view of the majestic waterfall.
Anyway, we (My friend Aneesh, a native Changanassery and now settled in New York City and me) decided to dare the winter and drove some neat 500 km to the waterfalls in the Buffalo City in the border of America and Canada. But honestly, we never had the idea of how impossible the winter could be at the Niagara.
Though our baggage was complete with woollen jacket and gloves, it couldn’t stand up to the very cold wind that wreaked through incessantly and a temperature that dipped below minus eight degree Celsius.
Some seven hours drive through the express high ways- very vast and wonderfully maintained eventually, landed us in the Buffalo City. Irrespective of its fame over the world as one of the most sought-after tourist destinations, surprisingly, there are no high-end hotels or resorts on the east side -American side of the fall. Aneesh hinted that he had booked rooms in the best hotel available as we had to recuperate from a tiring long drive.
Obviously, not impressed much, I stepped into the hotel with a sagging spirit and soon realized that the hotel was a casino. Seneca Casino is the best hotel and resort in the Buffalo City. Our room was on the 11th floor of the 26 storied building. I glanced out of the glass door on the side of the room which almost draw an immediate resemblance to a very wide theatre screen back home; I could clearly see the snow rising from the waterfall at a long distance from the hotel.
Seneca had in store a brilliant dining experience- everything from la Cascata restaurant, Tim Horton’s Coffee shop and specialty cocktail bars were all arranged.
The casino at Seneca was more or less a distant cousin of the casinos in Las Vegas we knew mostly through the Hollywood movies. The hundreds of casino tables were illuminated by very vibrant bulbs. Still, very late at night, the tables still drew hundreds of people around. Dani, an employee of the hotel, quipped that more people came to the casino which had been opened up recently to move the dices than the number of tourists who came to watch the Niagara Falls in the winter.
We didn’t wait for the night to get darker. Without much delay, we went to watch the illumination of the falls. But we had to return to the vehicle itself within minutes because of the biting cold. Special lights housed in the illumination centres had transformed the waterfall into an incredible and breath-taking light and water show. We compensated the loss by deciding to watch it in all the details the next day.
Next daybreak, we went to the waterfalls. The parking lots were vacant. Aneesh commented that people would consider it as insane to visit Niagara at that time. We were greeted by the terrific roar of the waterfalls while we were walking towards it frozen in the impossible winter wind. Thick clouds of snow wafted into the air from the spots where the falls hit the ground. Just before we were about to swerve a decent curve in the walkway, Aneesh asked me to close my eyes for a second. I turned the curve with my eyes closed very tight. Then he asked me to open my eyes.
It simply roared down, sweating and frothing, frighteningly gushing down in a mind blogging hurry. The biting winter had transformed the surface of the fall into a pristine white carpet of immeasurable breadth. I was stupefied completely by the first glance itself that went to the falls with the images of Athirappilly and the Enthayar Pappani waterfalls in mind. I had often visited these popular waterfalls during the several trips organized by Planet Green, our trekking group back home. The first real sight of the Niagara Falls was far beyond all the expectations gathered from the best photographs and videos available. It was majestic!
As the waterfalls span into the geographical areas of two countries, America and Canada, galleries thrusting into the waterfalls were built to get a better view of the falls of the American and Canadian parts. I was quite apprehensive while stepping into one of the galleries because I suffer from a mortal fear of heights. I mustered all my courage to step into the gallery as I wanted some good photographs of the waterfalls badly. Only we two people were there, above the torrential waterfalls, on the iron bridge between the two countries, it all seemed far removed from reality, as something occurred just in a dream. I forgot my camera for a moment and stood to watch the terrific beauty as the realization was instant that no camera in the world could capture its immense beauty and do complete justice to its majesty. Meanwhile, Aneesh cautioned me of frostbite and other serious problems, if we had stayed there any longer. By the time, our fingers had already gone numb; they were rendered useless even to manage exposure in my camera. But I rubbed my fingers hard till they could be moved enough to take some flicks.
Because of the bitter winter, the Maid of Mist, the well-known boat trips into the falls were suspended temporarily. If you have the nerve the trip will get you very close to the falls to enjoy its beauty in its terrific best.
When we were about to step down from the gallery, for the first time since we reached there, we came across two human beings. They were from China. They greeted us and said, only few people who were mad enough like us, came out of the hotel to watch the falls in such an impossible climate. We were also more than happy to meet a few members of the mad from around the world and walked to get a view of the waterfalls in the side Canada. By the time we turned back to the hotel our bodies almost drew a better equation with the cold and mist.
There are three falls in the Niagara which stands like an international border between the US and Canada. The falls in the American area is 'American Falls'(70 to 110 feet height) and ‘Horse Shoe Falls'(188 feet height) is on the Canadian side. Besides these, there is another small fall on the American side the ‘Bridal Veil Falls'.
Niagara is the biggest falls in the world considering the quantity of water; it falls from a height of 165 feet. Besides being the spot of one of the best tourist destinations, it is also the site of a very important hydel project of the two countries. The waterfalls which extend between America and Canada have a length of 1039 meters. Niagara also connects the two great lakes Eri and Ontario.
Translated by Madhuvan Geeth