Tuesday, June 24, 2008

East Coast of America Trek: Niagara Falls

My trip got off to a "great" start. Not only am I fighting the flu, no the flight with Singapore Airlines was delayed from 8.30am to 10.15am.

Luckily I live close enough to the airport and Florian and I went back home and watched the Olympics. I got back to the airport for the correct check-in time, only to find after sitting around for 30 mins, that we were delayed even further! We finally left Frankfurt at 11.30am - 3 hours late!

Despite the delay Singapore Airlines was great, Ramona had got me a great seat, I had loads of room for my bag next to me at the window, so my feet had freedom. The service was good, the stewardesses looked great in their uniforms which looked more like traditional costume than uniforms. The food was nothing to write home about, but then aeroplane food never is!
What was GREAT, was the video screen in the seat in front, that meant no straining my neck to see the film. I saw "Gone in 60 seconds", had I wanted I could have seen another 2 films. Instead I watched some sitcoms and played Nintendo!

I finally arrived at JFK airport at 1pm local time. Getting through immigration, baggage claim and customs took an hour (not too bad). I found the bus place right away, booked a seat on the Gray Line Shuttle and was on my way by 2.15pm (I only booked a one way ticket, I have since found out that they do a return and that way it is $5 cheaper). I don't think JFK is that far out from Manhattan, but it took forever to get there, I was at the hotel at 4.15pm.

Checking in wasn't as easy as normally, as the hotel first couldn't find my reservation, in the end they did, otherwise I would have been kicking up quite a fuss! Then it was first things first, and I tried to get the calling card to work to call Florian. It wouldn't work from the room, but I found a pay phone and gave him the number to call back.

After the phone calls I decided I needed fresh air and went for a walk to Times Square, where I had a BigMac Meal, that was about all I could face! On the way I got pretty wet (rain!), so I dried off a bit in the room, then it was down to the lobby to meet the rest of the guys. Not all were there but those that were, seem like a great bunch.

Let's see: Catherine, 23, from England, Karola, 27, from Germany, Shu-Min, 24, from Taiwan, studying in Cardiff, Wales. That makes us 4 girls so far and there are the following 4 guys: Jamie, 29, from Australia, Gary, 31, from England, Robin, 31, from Holland, Ivo, 33, from Holland (sorry both Dutch guys are from The Netherlands not Holland as they so often told us!). This time I have a male tour guide, Stephen, he suggested that we save our welcome evening until we are all there, nice gesture, so we all went out on our own together.

Gary has been here for three days already and knew some bars, and we headed to them. So we all got to know one another a bit. Cathy, Shu-Min and I left at 10pm as we were all jet-lagging. I am sharing my room, but I haven't met her yet. Finally switched off the light at 10.45pm.

Well, my room-mate was in the other bed, but we never met. When I left the room after dressing and repacking with my torch, she was still asleep, and I never bothered her, it is strange though sharing a room with someone and never speaking!

We are now in the van on our way to Lake Ontario (near Niagara) once again, I am doing the tour backwards, this time this is to ensure better foliage colouring towards the end of the tour. Most of us have "trekked" before, so packing the van up went really quick, now it's just a long driving day - 450 miles whatever that is in kilometres!

We met the two missing Trekkers Erica, 31, from Australia and Tom, 22, from England, since then Erica and I have discovered that not only 69 a great year, but that we were both born on the 5th June - wow!

And now for the really annoying thing of today, my camera has packed up on me again - GREAT! I feel sick just thinking about it, I have one more theory, which I will try out, when we get to the campground, and if that doesn't work, then I am really going to be pissed off. I have already changed the film and batteries, but that didn't help. My next plan entails testing it without a film in it and if it works then, then maybe it is the cheap Aldi films, and I will buy something here and test it.
Jamie has a spare camera, which he has lent me, so if it all fails at least I won't be completely without.

Well, we have since arrived at our campsite and the camera doesn't work without a film in it either - AGH! I was so upset I had to call Florian to calm down again. But I won't write about the camera anymore, otherwise it will annoy me all over again.

The american view of the FallsWe made good time getting from Seneca Lake to Buffalo, so we got to see the American side of the Niagara Falls, that was good as I hadn't seen them before. From there it was on to set up camp on the banks of Lake Ontario. It was a really clear evening and we could clearly see Toronto on the other side of the lake.

Unfortunately there was an extremely cold wind blowing off of the lake, so it wasn't exactly a comfy meal we had, but around the campfire it was nice and warm, also very smoky so even now two days later we all smell like a campfire!

Cause of the wind the campfire party was not that late as we all crawled into the warmer tents and even warmer sleeping bags.

The wind had died down in the morning, so breakfast tasted even better, as I wasn't fighting with my hair! We were all packed up and ready to leave by 8.30am and it was off to the Niagara Falls, but our first stop was Walmart for things like hats, scarves and gloves for more windy evenings!

There was a huge hiccup in our tour at the Canadian border, Tom had left an important piece of paper in his bag in New York and the Canadian officials wouldn't let him in.

Whilst the rest of us went to the Hard Rock Café for lunch and on the Maid of the Mist tour, Stephen and Tom went to see what they could do about the problem on the American side. We met Stephen again at 3pm but no Tom, he will hopefully rejoin us in Toronto, once his papers have been fedexed to him from NY.

The Maid of the Mist tour is a boat trip right up to the Falls, everyone gets a blue poncho and then everyone gets a free Niagara shower or drowning, whichever you want to call it!

From Niagara it was on to the "planes, trains and automobiles" campsite, so called by us as those are the sounds that surround us. Other than that the site is OK. After a delicious pasta dinner, we went to downtown Toronto to a couple of bars for a drink. We got back to camp around 1am, wrapped ourselves up in our sleeping bags and went to sleep. Well I guess we all did, I know I did.

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