As I have written about before here on Permagora, I have always been fascinated by waterfalls. I used to study waterfall statistics, with favorites and such, like baseball cards almost. Yet for all my enthusiasm, I recently learned I was wrong about a vital statistic regarding the great falls. I always thought that Victoria Falls in Africa was the biggest waterfall in volume, in the world. But it turns out, it’s Niagara. This came to my attention while visiting Iguazu Falls (another massive waterfall in South America) and trying to find its rank. When I saw that it was below Niagara, I realized that this has to be because of the rainy/dry seasons in South America. Probably for Victoria Falls too. These tropical falls have a much higher volume of water in their peak season than Niagara has, but then for half the year their flow is greatly reduced, and the stats are based on annual averages.
Of course, the Niagara Falls that we see is only about a third of the water that’s in the river. Two thirds are diverted for hydro power. What those falls must have looked like before this diversion! I wish I could have seen it.
I walked around town a bit through the city itself. All the big buildings were hotels, and along the main drag I saw catchy, hip restaurants, many of which were blasting music, as if the party was happening there. It was mid-day on a weekday, though, so this was not exactly the case. Not a whole lot to see in the city, so I headed down to the river to look at the falls.
I stopped by Niagara on my way out to Boston one year, but I only spent about half an hour, and I never made it down to the water to ride on the boats that go up into the mist. The Maid of the Mist is the company I knew about, but that line operates from the American side. Hornblower Niagara Cruises was the Canadian company, offering the exact same experience. Talk about a cash cow! Thirty bucks per person for a thirty minute boat ride. There must have been two hundred people on that boat, and they go out 18 times a day, assuming they go every half hour. That’s over a hundred thousand a day in revenue, if we take my cruise as an average. I wasn’t even there at peak season, and that doesn’t account for the night cruises that happen later in the year.
It was definitely worth it though. Seeing the falls from below was a totally different experience. I developed a new appreciation for the American Falls, which usually take side stage compared to Horseshoe Falls, with its perfectly formed crescent brink and deep water base. The rocks at the base of the American Falls make it look like it’s not as tall, but I learned (from the recording that played during the tour) that it’s actually eight feet taller. “Even though the American Falls is eight feet taller, daredevils have always preferred to go over Horseshoe Falls,” the recording stated. For obvious reasons. If I was offered the chance to go over Horseshoe Falls in a barrel, I would probably take it. But the American Falls? There would be no surviving that.
It was an impressive sight, cruising along next to those spray enshrouded rocks beneath the roar of the descending river. Getting a closer look at the rush of white water pouring over those boulders gave me a lot more respect for the American Falls.
Approaching Horseshoe Falls was very exciting, but by the time we got close to the falls, there wasn’t much to see. The mist was so heavy that it was like being in a cloud. I took what pictures I could with my good camera on the approach, but I put that away inside of my poncho once we got into the mist. I tried switching to my go-pro, but the battery was dead. Not that it would have mattered. I couldn’t see very much through the mist. It was pretty cool, however, to see the brink of the falls towering above us, just barely visible through the spray. What a powerful force of nature.
It was neat seeing Niagara again after having seen Iguazu Falls only a few months before. Iguazu was by far more impressive, and with so many different waterfalls, there was enough to see there to take up a whole day. Still, something about Niagara is very appealing, perhaps more so still than Iguazu. I think it’s the color of the water. The blueish white waters of North America seem so crisp and clean. In South America, the rivers were all brown, and Iguazu was more terrifying and powerful than it was elegant.
Don’t get me wrong; Iguazu was beautiful, but Niagara, especially the Canadian side, is just so picture perfect. They’re both marvels of nature that are well worth seeing.
After my boat ride, I walked around the riverfront area, where some beautiful (if ornamental) gardens had been installed, and where there was an interesting shrine to Nikola Tesla, whose inventions were the basis for the hydro-electric plant at Niagara. In fact, when Telsa was only 12, he became very interested in Niagara, and claimed that one day he would put a wheel underneath it and power the world.
I then went back up to town to get some food (from one of those overpriced touristy places) and check to see if I’d gotten a ticket. Indeed, I had. I did pay the meter, but not enough. Another one to add to my collection.
On a whim, I decided to cross the imaginary line and go see Buffalo. I have driven right past Buffalo, but never been. I do love a good walk through an old city downtown, and I figured it wouldn’t take too long. If we lived in a world of freedom, it wouldn’t have. But since we live in a police state, my plans were dashed as if on the rocks of the American Falls.
Growing up in Texas, my only interaction with the Border Patrol took place when driving to and from Big Bend National Park. All they ever did was ask if we were US citizens, look into the car to make sure we weren’t smuggling any immigrants, and then send us on our way. Of course, that was many years ago. Still post 9-11, but pre Trump.
When I started visiting BC last year, I got a taste of what the Border Patrol is like now. I would love to see someone make a comedy piece about training border agents. “No, don’t smile! Don’t be friendly. Look mean. You want to intimidate the travelers, make them think they must surely be doing something wrong. Make them feel insecure about who they are as a person.” Seriously, this is how these guys act. They ask all these absurd questions, their suspicion of you a mere matter of procedure.
During those BC crossings, I got such questions as, “What do you do for a living? Do you own a gun? Who are your friends in Canada? How do you know them?” I was waiting for “will you pledge your fealty to the State, or will you rot in a labor camp?” That one was left unsaid, but the message was loud and clear.
During my crossing into Quebec (just a few days before the Niagara trip) I was taken inside and sat down. After another round of interrogation, they just kept me there for some fifteen minutes while they did nothing. Just making me wait.
So I figured, having seen how this game works, that I was in for some more harassment at the Buffalo border, but nothing could have prepared me for what was to come. They made me park and go inside, and once again, the questions came, the narrowed eyes of my opponent shining like the interrogation spotlight. “What do you do for a living?”
“I’m a journalist and author.”
“How much money do you make?”
“I don’t know.”
“How can you not know? Didn’t you just pay taxes?”
Ha! No buddy, I’m an agorist. “I don’t handle that stuff,” was all I said.
“What’s in all the boxes?”
“My family’s stuff. We’re traveling for the whole year, so we brought lots.”
“And where’s your family?”
“How can you afford to be doing this? Where do you get your money?”
“I used to work for a guy who paid me lots of money.”
Obviously these are not answers that they wanted to hear. I knew that vagueness was not helping me, but specifics, especially truthful specifics, probably would have made it worse.
“Hand me the keys to your vehicle. We’re going to search it.”
There was no way for this to turn out well. I had no contraband aboard my ride, but I did have tons of stuff in there, and it was packed carefully. But it’s not like I could deny them. They had guns, and I didn’t doubt that they would point them at me if I stood up for myself or my rights.
It took them close to half an hour to ransack my car. At one point a guy came in with a folder that was packed deep in the topside stuff, some of Laura’s documents for getting the girls citizenship in Lithuania. “What’s all this?” he asked me. He showed me the passport of Adam, which I didn’t even know we had. Adam is Eva and Gaia’s birth father, and he lent us his passport, which is needed for several stages of the citizenship process. We also used it to create the paperwork needed for us to travel internationally with the kids without both of their birth parents present. But to the soldier cop, it just looked suspicious. I explained the situation to him, but he just scowled at me.
“And these birth certificates?”
Those are warehouse receipts, registering my children with the international cartel that wants to extort their life energy through taxation. They only even have them so we can have passports to travel out of this fascist place every so often. No, I didn’t say that. I just explained that they too were needed for citizenship applications, as well as visas in other countries, like Brazil.
Anyhow, they didn’t find anything in my car that they could bust me for, so they reluctantly let me go. When I returned to the car, it looked like it had just been ransacked, because it had. The tubs on the top were open, the straps all in heaps around them. It takes me about twenty minutes to get them all strapped down when I have to do it by myself. So in all, these guys took about an hour of my life, for no good reason at all. I know, some people deal with way worse at border crossings, but that doesn’t excuse what happened. I was forcibly detained, my privacy invaded, and safety threatened by a bunch of dudes with guns, who claim to be working to keep me safe. Borders are fiction, people.
My mood was darkened by this whole experience, but I still enjoyed Buffalo. A nice city with an active downtown. I would have enjoyed it more if I’d had about one more hour to take my time and read all the plaques and stuff, but that hour was gone forever, and darkness had already begun to fall on the land.
So back to Canada I went, dreading the border. Only this time, I lucked out. The officer who checked my passport must have missed his intimidation training, because he smiled and was nice. He asked his questions like a person who was curious, not as an enforcer looking for some excuse to pin me to the ground with a knee at my back. He asked if I was searched when I came in through Buffalo a while before (I returned via a different border station) to which I replied, oh yes. Thoroughly. He nodded, almost sympathetically, and sent me on my way. A nice fellow! Okay, so the Border Patrol gets a few points back for that guy, but they’re still way in the hole, in my score book. Worst thing of it was that I was going to have to cross back into the states again the very next day to get over to Detroit.
It was a lovely day at Niagara, and as I drove back towards Paris, I lamented the fact that I was seeing so many amazing places alone. I missed my family, and wished they could have been with me. Of course, there would have been far more whining, had they been along, but the older I get, the less I want to see cool things for the sake of seeing them and the more I want to show them to the next generation, with hopes of seeing that light go on behind their eyes when begin to realize just what a cool place our world really is.
I would be seeing them soon, though. They were flying back from Mexico in just a few days. Their arrival was going to change my tour completely, but I was ready to have them with me again. It’s a crazy journey that we’re all on together, and I hope that I can continue to bring you, my readers, all along on these adventures as we keep searching the world over for a way to just live free. So stay with us, my friends!