Saturday, March 10, 2007

Going North

Hey, look it's Niagara Falls! Ha ha really. I just drove for ten hours to look at a great heaving caldera of fog.

Here are some tourists, staring at the fog:

There is something very entertaining about seeing a great many people gathered together to stare at...a bowl of mist.

I don't think I could see much more than 1/3 of the falls, but (all joking aside) what there was to see was quite beautiful.

I don't often do look-but-don't-touch nature excursions, and it's strange to be so close yet so far away from the object of your attention. Waterfalls are funny because there's generally at least one avenue of approach where the waterfall springs at you out of nowhere. If you walk up to Niagara from behind, all you see is, water, hotels, walkway...woah! Sudden elevation drop and gorge extending far as you can see into the mist. Even on the approach facing the waterfall, it's tucked into the gorge - submerged and out of the way until you get close.

That's what happened to me when I saw the Cascades d'Ouzoud for the first time - another memorable occasion when I drove for ten hours in order to see a waterfall. We finally arrived and kept asking everyone we passed, "Where is the waterfall?" and people kept pointing into a very ordinary looking olive grove and I was starting to think that there wasn't a waterfall at all...and then I was right on top of it. I kept thinking of the Cascades d'Ouzoud at Niagara because at the Cascades, you crawl (practically on hands and knees sometimes) down this trail to get from the top of the waterfall to the bottom, afraid of making a wrong step and toppling head over heels into the falls. And the times I've been there, there were always people swimming in the pools at the bottom, and clambering up the rocky cliffs to dive. Basically, the polar opposite of standing on a walkway, leaning over a guard rail, and observing.

I don't know that one experience is better or worse than the other; maybe just that the walk takes longer to do. I walked up and down the promenade a bit today, and I'll do more tomorrow, just to take in the lay of the land. It was icy and forbidding, and the water just looked dangerous - dangerous when it was dark and churning, dangerous when it was white and frothy, dangerously cold where it was a pale, clear, arctic green.

The town is more or less a typical tourist town, with a dash of Vegas thrown in just in case wax museums and motels weren't tasteless enough on their own. But that's kind of fascinating too.

1 comment:

Melinda said...

that is utterly gorgeous. honest to god, i think if i ever do go up to see the falls, i'll want to go in the winter. i never, ever would have planned it that way, but in your pictures they look so much more amazingly wondrous than i've ever seen them look in other images taken on bright sunny days. awesome.