I always thought
Niagara Falls was in the middle of nowhere, just like Ayers Rock,
another Natural Wonder of the World, in Australia. But this couldn’t
be further from the truth.
the natural wonder, is situated on the border of Canada and America,
with both countries calling their cities, Niagara Falls, and both
countries owning part of the falls, although Canada has the larger
and more picturesque of the two, the horseshoe falls.
My trip to Niagara
Falls started off at a leisurely pace. After all, nothing else was
planned for that day until later that night. We left at 8.30am and
soon drove by a dead raccoon in the middle of the road. Road kill
is one of the most reliable ways to see the natural fauna of a country,
and even though raccoons are quite a common sight in Canada, they
are a nocturnal animal, and unlikely to be seen unless you’re
out camping and they come into your tent!
we saw 3 deer running across the road and along a small stream ahead
of us. A cardinal (a very common bright red Canadian bird) flew across
the windscreen of our van and perched itself on a roadside tree. MaryBeth
was taking me to see her summer holiday home in Byng, so we were taking
the scenic route to Niagara Falls. And one of those scenes was the
fish ladder. Many Canadian fish, such as salmon, swim upstream to
spawn, and have difficulties getting over man-made dams. So these
concrete fish ladders have been designed to allow the fish to climb
over these dams like steps on a staircase.
home wasn’t at all what I expected. Their house in Welland is
a massive 3 level building with a floor space of about 3,000 sq. ft,
so I was surprised to see an 18 ft. caravan and equally sized annex
(totalling 200 sq. ft.) being called home for about 6 months of the
year (April to October). Nevertheless, each year, MaryBeth, John and
the kids were always looking forward to going back to Byng, their
caravan home by the lake.
in a hurry that morning, so we stopped for breakfast in Dunnville,
the town right next to Byng. And for $2.99 each, we enjoyed a hot
cooked breakfast of bacon and eggs on toast. MaryBeth then took me
to the Marshville Heritage Village in Wain Fleet, where lots of very
old log-constructed buildings were on display. But the thing that
caught my eye was the mountain of snow in the car park. These snowdrifts
are created when snowploughs clear the roads and car parks and the
snow is piled up on the roadside or car park boundaries. Then when
the sun comes out again and melts the snow from the roads and houses,
etc., these snowdrifts, being several feet high and made mostly of
ice and compacted snow, tend to linger on for weeks and sometimes
As we headed for
Niagara Falls again, we came across another road kill. This time it
was a freshly killed opossum, and I even got MaryBeth to stop the
van so I could go for a closer inspection. Whereas the possums in
Australia are very cute and cuddly with long bushy tails and very
soft fur, the opossums are very rat-like, with ratty faces, spiky
fur and short hairless tails. But apart from the similarity in name,
they do have one thing in common with the possum. They are the only
marsupials not found in Australia.
Our next stop
was a surprise. We stopped outside a castle in Ridgeway. But this
was unlike any castle I’d seen in Europe. Yes, it was very grand
and had a moat going all around it, but it was just brand new. In
fact, it was still being built! And even though it was definitely
a crowd-drawer, I don’t think that was the intention of the
owner, who seemed to be doing all he could to retain his privacy and
keep everyone OUT!
A Tim Hortons
drive-thru was too tempting to pass up and soon I was trying one of
their Toffee Coffees and assortment of donuts.
We passed by hundreds
of Canadian geese and lots of squirrels (brown, black and grey). Then,
as we drove through Fort Erie, MaryBeth pointed to the skyscrapers
on the other side of the lake and told me it was Buffalo (USA). The
bridge going across the lake to America was crammed with cars and
trucks, which, according to the radio reports, had been waiting for
5 hours to cross the border. This was due to a Terrorist Alert which
had been issued, something which the Canadians and Americans have
reluctantly got used to.
At last we arrived
at Niagara Falls, population of 76,000. And even though it was a clear
day with a clear blue sky, there was a heavy mist rising from the
ground in the distance. And as we approached the city, the mist grew
heavier. Actually, the city is built around the Niagara Falls, and
the mist comes up from the bottom of the falls as tons of water crash
hundreds of feet down into the river, sending the spray more hundreds
of feet into the atmosphere.
an old rusted barge stuck right on the top edge of the horseshoe falls.
It’s been there for 60 years and has only moved a couple of
inches in all that time. But I guess it’ll be quite a sight
if it finally takes the plunge over the edge. With all that weight
it could put a larger hole into the riverbed below.
Hundreds (or thousands?)
of tourists were everywhere. And because MaryBeth couldn’t park
the van anywhere, she dropped me off by the side of the falls so I
could take a few photos, while she circled the block before coming
back to pick me up again.
Clifton Hill, Niagara Fall’s central area, was also interesting.
It looked very much like Las Vegas with lots of brightly lit hotels,
restaurants, amusement centers and a casino.
Later in the evening
we returned to Niagara Falls again with BettyAnn as well. But this
time the focus was on seeing the popular Festival Of Lights, a colourful
display of lights depicting Christmas themes, animals and Disney characters
on the waters around the falls.
Then as we drove
homeward at the end of the night, I saw a live skunk walking casually
along the roadside. At last, a road-LIVE! (as opposed to a road kill).
me about LETS for a Channel 10 programme.
in Niagara TV Interview
LETS Niagara were
leaving no stone unturned, and they added another coup to their LETS
Agenda for James Taris. A TV interview. Breanne Sheffield, daughter
of my hosts, and LETS Niagara member, was asked to be the interviewer,
and she did a great job.
It was filmed
on Saturday, January 3, but not to be screened until Friday and Saturday,
January 16 and 17. John Sheffield said he’d videotape it for
me because I’d be in Kitchener by then, so I’m looking
forward to seeing it when I get back on January 25. And as a bonus,
John videotaped it while the interview was happing, so I’ll
also have a “The Making Of …” version too.
TV Interview text …
10 TV Interview
Saturday, Jan 3, 2004
(for LETSniagara in Welland, Canada)
Hello, my name
is Breanne Sheffield. I am a member of the Local Niagara
LETS. We are to interview James Taris, an international LETSer from
Melbourne, Australia. A LETSaholic, if you like. James is travelling
the world in 400 days.
James, would you tell us what LETS is all about?
LETS stands for Local Exchange Trading System and is a group of people
in a small community all agreeing to exchange goods and services with
each other without the need for cash.
So it’s kind of like Canadian Tire money?
It can be. All LETS groups around the world operate in their own unique
How many LETS groups are there around the world?
In 2001, I created an International LETS Directory called LETS-Linkup.com.
It’s the largest LETS Directory in the world with over 1500
LETS groups from 39 countries. But I’ve heard that there could
be as many as 6000 LETS groups from 55 countries participating.
Niagara LETS has a membership of approximately 60 members. How many
members are there in your LETS group?
I’m a member of 2 LETS groups in Melbourne, Australia. One of
the groups has about 400 members and the other has about 150.
What is the average number?
In my travels around the world, I’ve noticed that LETS groups
have about 100 members on average. But once they get to 200 or more,
things get very exciting with over 1000 goods and services usually
available for their members to select from.
I’m sure that while you were travelling you have seen some interesting
things. Could you share some of these experiences with us?
I’ve already been to about 15 countries around the world and
written 4 books about my travels, so it’s always hard to pick
which ones are most memorable. But I do have a soft spot for my snake
and massage experiences. In Marrakech, Morocco, I had a couple of
snakes wrapped around my neck, while in Ningbo, China, I had snake
for dinner. In Zhengzhou, China, I had a very painful massage by a
blind masseur, which is very common in China. But in Aas, Norway,
I had a most relaxing Polynesian massage by a Norwegian guy.
How easy is it to become a member?
LETS groups welcome people from all walks of life. And everyone has
something they can offer. So it’s just a matter of contacting
your local LETS group, in this case it would be LETSniagara, but for
those from another area, they could look up the closest LETS group
to them by going to my web site LETS-Linkup.com and searching there.
Is there any cost of being a member of a LETS group?
Usually LETS groups charge a small cash registration when they join.
This is just to help cover the cash costs of postage for newsletters,
etc. Then there’s a monthly account keeping fee paid in the
local currency (LETSniagara use Niagara Dollars) which goes to the
people who are running the group.
What sort of things do people offer within the system?
There’s hundreds of things which are offered through a LETS
Computer services – h’ware repairs, s’ware
repairs, tuition, desktop publishing, word processing …
Household services – lawn mowing, gardening,
rubbish removals, window cleaning, house cleaning, snow shovelling,
handyman services (painting, jammed doors, leaking taps) …
Domestic services – household cleaning, ironing,
cooking (ideal if you’re busy or single … “cook
for one extra”) …
Plus - massages, baby-sitting, piano lessons, bicycle
repairs, garden produce, recycled items: books, CDs, s’ware,
What is the most interesting thing you have seen offered?
I am constantly amazed with the variety of things offered through
LETS. It’s like going through a market stall. But as a writer
I’m always on the lookout for any type of holiday accommodation.
Back in Australia I spent 5 glorious days alone in a beachside caravan.
It was winter, so it was very quiet. Blissful. I wrote one of my most
memorable works during that break.
article is taken from the ebook,
400-Day LETS Odyssey
Taris web sites