We were so close to Canada we thought it would be silly not to visit. We had the time. We headed to Bangor after we finished the trail and picked up a rental car at the airport. It was just a small airport but all the rental company's had booths. '1 of your cheapest cars please'. Great, they had none so we got an upgrade to the next class for free! I would have been happy if they had given us a car with a V8... Petrol is cheap in the USA and Canada. Although a lot of people now buy what they call compact cars, their is still a lot of big cars and 'trucks' or what we would call utes or pickups on the road. I can tell from the sound of the engine in the pickups that they are petrol not diesel, but at $1.08NZD a liter, who cares!!
So, Canada is a strange place. We cross the boarder and all of a sudden everything is in French. All the road signs, advertising and radio. Had we teleported to Europe without knowing? Quebec is a 100% French speaking city, not even bilingual. I remember that the region had a vote to become independent from the rest of Canada and it was a close thing but didn't pass. The revenge was to talk and act like the French. They are doing well but I didn't see one single Citroen or Renault car anywhere so all in all a fail at being French I think.
We went to the Bio-dome in Montreal which was the velodrome built for the 1986 Olympic Games held in Canada. Like a lot of games infrastructure it had no real use after the games so they built a really cool bio dome that held the climates of the Americas. It included rain forests and ice environments. Very well done and a great use for the old stadium. It was cool to see the 1500m gold medal winner was the legend John Walker! They had plaques with all the gold medal winners. We won 2 golds then. 1500m and the men's hockey team. I remember that games... 30 years ago now (old eh)
The national animal for Canada is the beaver and although we didn't get to pat a live one they did of course have a pelt we could touch and they are amazing. So soft! They have 2 types of fur. A soft under layer and an outer layer that's thicker. They're an amazing animal and we had walked past a lot of ponds created by beavers. They make the dams in the rivers for protection from predators but in the process they provide so much habitat for other animals and wetland birds. Their goal is to make the pond deep and big enough to not freeze in winter. You would think that fish would be on the diet but they eat only plants and of course trees! We saw a lot of evidence of large trees that have been felled by beaver on the trail and once they used to remove the dams but they provide so much to for the forest animals they just leave them now and if necessary re route the trail. We never did see one in the wild though.
Next was the largest city in Canada, Toronto. A really nice looking city! Back to English road signs now and English radio stations too. Both Montreal and Toronto are on the Great Lakes. What an amazing thing they are! Having grown up by the ocean, I had trouble getting around the fact it's fresh water. They look like oceans and disappear over the horizon and we even watched massive container ships sail past...still a lake or river. It's a massive country!
The number one thing to do in Toronto is visit Niagara Falls. They really as a wonder of the world! I used to go to Huka Falls in Taupo and look in wonder at the volume of water going over them. Well Niagara Falls makes Huka Falls look like a dripping tap.
Some fun facts about the falls...
-Niagara Falls is comprised of three waterfalls: American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe Falls.
-The American and Bridal Veil Falls were turned off in 1969 by U.S. Army Engineers to study the effects of erosion.
-The water that flows over the Falls is at 25-50% capacity at any given time.
-The first person to go over the Falls in a barrel was 63-year-old school teacher Annie Edson Taylor.
-During periods of peak flow in the summer and fall, more than 2.6 million liters of water per second pour over Niagara Falls.
-Four of the five Great Lakes drain into the Niagara River, (Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie) before emptying into Lake Ontario. These five Great Lakes make up almost 20% of the world's fresh water supply.
-Energy from the Niagara River has been harnessed for hydro-electric power generation as far back as the mid-eighteenth century.
-Power generation facilities along the Niagara River supply more than one-quarter of all power used in New York State and Ontario.
-50 to 75 percent of the water flowing along the Niagara River is diverted from going over the Falls to hydroelectric power generating stations.
Niagara Falls was the birthplace of commercial hydro-electric power. In Niagara USA, Nikola Tesla developed the alternating current system, which allowed for the transmission of power generated along the Niagara River to homes and businesses. In 1895 one of the world's first commercial hydropower plants was constructed right on the banks of the river. It's a grand building and is still standing although it stopped producing power in the 70's.
I could have watched the falls all day, there quite mesmerising to watch!
Back to the USA over the rainbow bridge. Not named for its sexual preference but because the spray from the falls will make a nice rainbow under the right conditions. Wow, what a difference. On the surface Canada appears to be more prosperous than the USA, well in that boarder area for sure. We followed Lake Erie west to the Cleveland area, staying in the city of Mentor. Interstate highway driving all the way. They are great roads! Conceived in 1958 by president Eisenhower they took 35 years to complete to the original vision stage but are of course still being built. Always lots to look at on the side of the interstate and we often pass outlet stores that are more like large malls in the middle of nowhere. In Ohio they had an interesting group of shops along the interstate with a massive sign advertising fireworks, adult products and liquor. Now what could possibility go wrong with that combination??
From Cleveland I made Christine do some driving. I felt like I was punishing her in some way as she wasn't very happy to all of a sudden learn to drive on the right hand side of the road. As it was the freeway she didn't have to deal with oncoming traffic though, but as usual she took it all in her stride and we cruised into downtown Cincinnati without any problems at all. Cincinnati is a really nice city with some very elegant buildings and a brand new riverfront area and it was a nice break to have a walk around for a while even in the 40 degree heat! We stayed just out of the city and the next day it's back on the road again. It didn't take us long, and it didn't feel like it but before we knew it we were back in the south. People started to sound different, the road safety signs for seat belts now read 'buckle up y'all' and we could no longer buy alcohol in the supermarket. Welcome to the 'Bible Belt'. The southern part of America is very different. On our trip in 2000 we spent most of our time in the south and heading back down on this trip it all comes flooding back. Really, America is like a collection of 48 countries. They have different taxes, laws and cultures. Many are similar to each other but the northern states sure are different to the south. It might take some getting used to being here in the south.
Today, we headed to a very southern attraction called Dollywood... It's a theme park owned by Dolly Parton, the country music singer. We went to the water park part which is rated as one of the best in the country. The temperature was in the high 90's again today (high 30's in celsius) so it's good to cool off a bit. We didn't meet Dolly but I think I saw her sister. We didn't choose the best day as it was also forecast for thunder and they cleared the pools as soon as the first clap was heard. I don't think anyone has been hit by lighting when swimming but you never know eh..Being at a water park in our togs made us realise how skinny we are now, or rather how large other people are. No one cared though and it made us feel pretty good about ourselves.
From here we are going to visit our friends Dave and Sarah. Dave has featured in these blogs before. He is the famous hiker that gave me my trail name, Cowpie! More on that later.
it's Our Epic Trip...
David & Christine are from New Zealand and are embarking on a trip around the world the slow way, on foot and by personal vehicle. This could get interesting!