adversity Canada Ontario Travel

August 8, 2012 … shuffling back to Buffalo

(This is the first of four written on the iPad while in various stages of being in transit, and only now being published with images. This was written on 8th August)

Traveling is both a joy and a trial for me.

I love seeing new places and new things. What I dislike is all the many things that raise anxiety … airport security processes, rental cars, navigating in strange places, the possibility of confrontation with muggers or authority figures. The consequence of all these anxieties for me, is that I quickly get “over it” and am ready to return home.

I have now reached that stage. This is fortunate, as our tickets say we should get back to San Francisco today, in preparation for our flight back to NZ tomorrow (August 9th).

So, there we were, yesterday, on the beautiful shores of Lake Huron, in Ontario. The return trip to our motel in Buffalo ought to take a little over four hours, and since we didn’t want to drive in darkness, and with allowance for misadventure (there’s that anxiety thing again), we agreed to leave mid-afternoon.

In the morning, we visited the beautiful little village of Bayfield, which is one of those historic villages which has been restored to something even better than its former glory. Bayfield, Ontario ... a street viewThere, we wandered the leafy streets and parks, and browsed the craft shops and galleries, and inspected (but did not inhale) the enormous selection of different whiskeys in one of the local pubs, “the Black Dog”. For a local comparison, I was reminded of Martinborough, and the shopping district in Greytown. Old shops selling new products in Bayfield.

In one of the trendy little cafes, a large group of friends with their kids were seated around a table in animated discussion. Off to one side, a very small child was thirst and saw where the dog went to get water and decided to get some too. His parents saw him and provided a drink from a better source.relief from the heat

On the way back to our hosts’ cottage, we stopped at an Amish farm and retail shop to purchase traditionally grown and home-made items for lunch. I suspect the aroma alone had calories.

After a leisurely lunch and one more session on the deck, we embarked on our return journey.

West bound, life was simple, as the major roads were merging. Eastbound, they were diverging, and it would take just one error to send us off course. Sure enough, I made that error. For about ten km, I wrestled with the growing conviction that we were on the wrong road (heading for Toronto). Once a sign post to Cambridge confirmed our mistake, it took another 6 or 7 km to find an exit and re-entry point where we could reverse our direction back to Woodstock Ontario, from where we could get back on track. That added 40 minutes or so to our journey.

However, that was the only one of my various anxieties to be realized. Even the legendary aggression of the border agents at the Peace bridge was absent, and the agent chatted about our trip and which bits we liked most (Rocky Mountain National Park, of course). I am sure he wanted it to be Niagara, but my dead camera had removed tha as a candidate.

And so ended our last real day of tourism.

Today, we are in transit to San Francisco, tomorrow we board that big blue paraffin parrot bound for Aotearoa. Ka pai!


Canada Grand Bend Landscapes Light Ontario Sunset Travel

August 7, 2012 … into the golden West

Despite the photographically catastrophic outcome of the first trip, we went back to Canada.

This time, our goal was to visit friends near the little town of Grand Bend, on the shores of Lake Huron, in Ontario. Our entry point this time was at the Peace Bridge at Buffalo. From there, we got straight onto the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW), a multi-lane highway that goes pretty much directly from Buffalo to Toronto. Since we were travelling on a Monday we were a little surprised at the almost empty road. However, it was a public holiday in Canada, so we made the most of it.

With the aid of comprehensive written instructions, we traversed the 350 km in a little over four hours. Ontario offers very attractive views, but does so in vast quantities. Ontario has a vast landscape On the other hand, the moment we crossed from New York State into Ontario, we felt a sense of orderliness and calm that we just didn’t get on the other side of the border. Hard to define, but perhaps the Canadians are more akin to us than I had imagined. Perhaps it’s that their eccentricities are of a gentle kind. gentle eccentricityWe liked it.

Our friends have just rebuilt their house and it is situated on the Eastern shore of mighty Lake Huron, some 64 km from the opposite shore. The weather was perfect, bright and sunny without being excessively hot.  We were able to relax on their deck with the sound of the lake lapping and the slight fizz of a cold beer … just bliss. Prior to an excellent dinner and some New Zealand wine, we took a pleasant walk along warm and almost empty beaches. warm deserted fresh water beaches

Afterwards, we sat out on the deck and watched the sun disappear into the Western reaches of the lake. Sunset in paradise

Our time here is running out.

adversity Canada Niagara Ontario Weather

August 6, 2012 … a wet and wild one, with a sting in the tail.

All the advice was consistent.

See the Canadian side. So, with some trepidation, and a few false turns on the way, we drove across the Rainbow Bridge into downtown Niagara Falls. Though the Canadian border officials try to be as severe as the American ones, you can tell their heart is not in the assumed gruffness, and that they really want to be nice. Niagara Falls, ON is a pretty enough town, in the parts that we saw, but it was suffering from the aftermath of a severe thunderstorm with heavy wind and rain.

Some lovely old trees on the picturesque river front had blown over, or had major branches blown off. Maintenance crews were working hastily to clear up before the daily rush. From my perspective, a moody post-storm sky was more interesting than the usual blue sky on all the postcards.A moody sky behind the Horseshoe falls

We bought a day adventure pass each which gave us access to four of the headline attractions, including the famed “Maid of the Mist” ride. But before we started, we had first to stand and gape at the monumental volume of water thundering over the Horseshoe Falls into the Niagara Gorge. This is a place that you feel as much as see.Niagara in full flow

I tried to stitch multiple images together to make a panorama and was not unhappy with the outcome:Niagara Panorama

In due time we made our way via one of the “people movers” to the Maid of the mist and immediately my first illusion was shattered. For some reason, I had always thought that the Maid of the Mist was a single iconic vessel that has plied its trade for years, in the same way that the Earnslaw has done on Lake Wakatipu. Not true. One of the many "Maids of the Mist"What gave it away was the fact that I could see four “Maid of the Mist” boats all at once, and they are numbered IV through VII. OK, I was disillusioned but still looked forward to the trip.

Each of us was issued with a  blue plastic disposable poncho, and we were crammed on to the boats. Now, lest you think the storm had gone completely. Alas, not so. The wind was swirling and there were still intense rain showers. Ponchos billowed everywhere. Swirling windsI had one camera in its own storm jacket and the other in the “shelter” of the poncho. Alas the swirling winds had the ponchos blowing over our heads and my faithful Canon 7D seems to have suffered a terminal case of water damage from the mists of Niagara and the rain. Now I get to test how good my travel insurance really is.

The rain increased in intensity and we focused on the indoor events (a movie and lunch). Even the movie (in “4D”) ensured a thorough wetting, as well as a snow fall and an earth tremor or two.

After lunch, during which I tried Canada’s “guilty secret”, the infamous Poutine, and was unimpressed, we decided that, rain or now we should at least do the white water walk. The rain redoubled its efforts, but we still had some ponchos, so we walked along the gorge walkway near water level, beside the water thundering past at over 40 km/h. Astounding.Slow exposure of the racing river

Our first day in Canada was over, with one dead camera, and the other seemingly unscathed.