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Reports

Sunday, 8 June 2003
Toronto --> Burlington, Ontario, Canada

Got from Toronto to the down south Burlington suburb town thanks to a lift from National Post reporter Mary Vallis. After a photoshoot on the road for that same newspaper, my host Doug Smith took me along to the Niagara Falls. One last time, to see the falls at the normal angle.

My host Chris Priess let me sleep in as long as I wished. He had given me his own big bed, while he slept on a fold out couch in the television room. Around 10.30 am I got down to the living room again.

"So, ready for breakfast?" Chris asked. "I don't have anything in my fridge so we'll have to go out and eat somewhere."

Chris orders his groceries on the internet and on the day the new delivery comes in, everything is mostly empty. "It's a great system, I can order things and they keep track of what I have ordered in the past. I can also just say that I want the same things as last week if I want to."
"Isn't it more expensive?"
"No, it all has the same price as a regular superstore, only you have some delivery expenses."

For breakfast Chris took me along to Mars diner on College Street in Toronto, where I seemed to have entered a world that had not changed in about fifty years. I expected Danny and Sandy from Grease to be rock 'n rolling in anytime.

A friend of Chris had joined us for this breakfast bite and as he is a steady customer the waitress knew exactly what he wanted. "They have a great memory here," Chris added on, "if you come here once and next week again, they know exactly what you had last week."

During breakfast I was asked how I would get around without any money; what if you are out of tooth paste? I explained that I there also depend on the help of hosts. And I honestly had to say that I was running out of deodorant very soon. "Oh I'll take you to the drug market after breakfast," Chris said.

What I didn't knew is that he would buy me 40$ of toiletries for on the road. I found a cheap deodorant and then Chris asked if there was anything else I needed. "Sun lotion?" and before we knew a lady talked us into getting expensive Vichy lotion ("The rest is just copper tone crap, really bad," she said and gave a bottle of free after sun with it), ear plugs, eye drops ("to smooth the travelling eye") and as we made the store lady at Shoppers Drug Mart so happy, she threw in a free bottle of Herbal Essences newest shampoo.

Now who is spoiling who here?!

I was heading out again, but I wouldn't have to hitchhike to my next location (the number of times I have hitchhiked in colossal big Canada can be counted on two hands).

Through email I was approached by a reporter from The National Post, one of Canada's national newspapers. She, Mary Vallis, asked if she could do an interview with me. I enjoy doing interviews but as they take lots of time and can be very interruptive as I stay with my hosts, I posed the idea that she could interview me on the road to my next destination.

Well as my next spot is Burlington and Burlington is down the highway, it was a good way to have that interview as a tape recorder was taping everything Mary asked and I answered.

After saying goodbye to Chris (who was the happy man as he groceries were just delivered) we got on the road and arrived in Burlington only half an hour later.

There I stay with Doug Smith who lives in one of the new condominiums in town. Burlington isn't a town with a big story, it is a suburb town and many of its inhabitants commute to Toronto every day. Doug himself works for a company that creates the software to upgrade maps of the world. "Even National Geographic uses our enhanced maps," he told me.

When I arrived in Burlington I met up with Doug, but the press was still around. Mary had arranged photographer Peter Thompson to take some photographs of me and of course I had to be driven to another location for that. Doug, Mary and I got into Peter's car and headed out to some remote road along in the country where the cows along the road said moooo and the road moved up and down in the distance. Perfect for a photo about a traveller.

I smiled and modelled and Peter clicked a way with his camera. It took about half an hour to be done and perhaps have the perfect shots to go with the article. But it was okay to me. The paper has a good story, the reporter and the photographer makes a few bucks and I might get some more invites on the road. It's good for everybody. Even Doug enjoyed this media circus!

The result of today can be read online on The National Post website.

I dumped my stuff at Doug's apartment when we finally got back. That's what I mean with 'interviews take a lot of my time'. It was past 4 pm.

In the meantime Doug had already presented the idea for a Sunday drive to the Niagara Falls. He knew I had just seen them from the sky yesterday, but as I am nearby the falls now, I should also see them from the regular angle.

Not much later we were in the car again for the one-hour drive to Niagara Falls. When we got there and I got the skyline in my view it was very cloudy and it started to rain softly. To avoid getting wet we decided to first have a bite to eat at the Hard Rock Café.



When we got out the pub (where they had more decorative attention to Disney than to Hard Rock) an hour later the town was covered in a thick mist. Oh well, we thought and walked along the boulevard to where we could see the falls at the best. That was getting hard, because we couldn't even see the American Fall (320m wide, only one-half of the width of the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side.

Though you can hear the roar of the fall miles away, nothing quite prepared us for the spectacle; the fearsome white arc shrouded in clouds of mist, with the river boats struggling below.

Since the 1910s, successive hydroelectric schemes have greatly reduced the water flow, and all sorts of tinkering have spread what's left of the Niagara more evenly over the crest line. As a result, the process of erosion, which has moved the falls some 11km upstream in 12,000 years, has slowed down from 1 meter per year to 30 cm. This obviously has advantages for the tourist industry in "the honeymoon capital of the world" as Niagara Falls loves to be called.

We were looking out from the edges of Table Rock, where tourists flocked around everywhere, looking through their binoculars, hoping to see the spectacle from up close. But they were heavily disappointed. The mist was so thick, that we could only see the water crashing down passed us at the most southern tip and then after 15 meters you couldn’t see more of the wide fall.

I didn't care much that I couldn't see the entire manifestation of nature here, I was already happy I made it all the way here. And I heard the falls loud and clear, believe me!

Then it started to rain again. Not just a little bit! It was one of those really rare rainfalls that make you wet within a few minutes, like a tropical rain fall. Like a Niagara Falls, but than one that keeps you alive. Suddenly Doug and I were the only people at the lookout. "Quick! Take a photo of this; it's really rare to see this place deserted like this!"

So of course it ended up that Doug and I got soaked. Not only from standing in the rain for some touristy photos, but also because he had parked his car all the way behind the casino and the bridge to the USA. That was only a half an hour walk back, but enough to get totally soaked and splashed dirty by passing cars which drivers don't seem to care about pedestrians.

But it was fun! We had a laugh about it all!

The weather only worsened this night. On the road back we almost slid off the road as we drove through a big patch of water on the highway and the wheels started aqua panning. Sweaty anyone?

Back home in Burlington we skipped the idea to go to the pub for a pint, we were both too tired (and wet). I settled myself behind my laptop hooked to Doug's high-speed internet connection and tried to finish some work, before I went flat on his couch (dry again).

Wow, another very impressive day in Canada!

Good night Burlington!

Ramon.