It’s early morning. Streamers of mist slide over the car, rippling past in the wet air as we race down Route 476. The landscape’s shrouded in fog, dim, eerily silent, and empty save the occasional car whipping past, driver in his private four-wheeled warm cocoon, and rarely, a behemoth eighteen-wheeler lumbering past like Star Wars’ opening scene.
Then, gradually, the sun’s warmth pierces through, the mist dissipates, and as we move North, the glorious autumn colors begin to emerge. Lush greenery gives way to brilliant yellows, vivid browns, and fiery reds; entire tracts of forest flame, blazing color in the sunshine. We’re driving up to one of the planet’s great natural spectacles, the largest waterfall in the world – Niagara Falls.
Reach early evening, just in time to catch the last Maid of the Mist tour boat. These boats take you into the basin beneath the falls, in the center of the falls’ horseshoe curve; there, you’re surrounded on 3 sides by a wall of water so gigantic, it defies description. At four million cubic feet a minute, the experience ceases to be something to see or feel; you become a part of it, a tiny particle in an awesome display of elementalism. The foaming spray blinds, drenches, deafens, and drowns you, the closest you’ll get to breathing water. It’s not the flying rain of monsoon storms. It’s heavier, more mineral; smells, tastes, feels different. Snow-white, chilling cold under cloudy autumn skies, the falls tower up almost two hundred feet… and everything you worried about for so long, work, money, everything, suddenly feels… insignificant. All you can do is just be, exist in the face of grandeur.
We walk later through caves on the American side, along wooden walkways constructed around the base – the only way to get close enough to actually touch the falls. Luckily, there’s enough sun to let us dry off before evening, when the October wind carries a sharp bite.
At night, a light display is switched on; as glowing reds, and soft, powdery whites play across them, the falls transform into something unearthly, alternating between heaven and hell. It’s a surreal vision, and never to be missed; and if you can, get a Canadian visa, because the US might have the falls, but it’s the Canadians that get to enjoy the best view.
Apart from the Falls, there’s not much to do in Niagara, so we head back next morning. It’s a day’s drive to New York, a brilliant experience. The Amish countryside, as you pass through Pennsylvania and Delaware, is vast, flat, and spread open for hundreds of miles, all directions. Lightning flickers on the horizon; being autumn, it’s Halloween season, and all the towns and houses we pass are putting up decorations. Pumpkins everywhere – on the roadside, in the markets, lit up as lanterns, in bread, cakes, even ice-cream and tea. After some irresistible stops at farm diaries for natural, fresh icecream (mmm!) and lunch, it’s late evening by the time we reach our New Jersey hotel.