Falling for Falls

The image of a frozen Niagara Falls during the recent Polar Vortex brought on the reminder that waterfalls can conjure up so many images – powerful, peaceful, thunderous, calmness and ever changing. Niagara, located between Canada and the United States sure shows all of that. It may not be the highest nor the widest but it does boast the largest volume of flow. I love water in most forms – oceans, lakes, rivers and waterfalls. Here are four more of my favorite waterfalls that I have encountered during my travels.

Iguazu Falls

Located between Argentina and Brazil, it is made up of 275 drops that range between 60 to 82 meters (200 to 270 ft) with a total span of 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles) forming the largest waterfall system in the world. My last visit was for over 4 days and I walked along the top of the falls, at mid level, at the bottom level and even ventured under one of the falls in a Zodiac boat. The park is well developed and organized with multiple walking trails and lookout points. It is definitely one of the the most captivating places I have travelled to.

Victoria Falls

Vicky Falls is also located between two countries, Zimbabwe and Zambia. At over 108 meters (355 ft) high and 1.7 km (1.06 miles) wide, it forms the world’s largest sheet of tumbling down water. There are a number of pools on the edge of the upper fall where daring people can hike out to and take a dip overlooking the drop with rushing water all around them. My highlight of the visit was a helicopter ride which not only afforded a majestic vista of the Fall but also the aerial view of trotting zebras and giraffes in the nearby plains.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound is located in the south-west corner of the South Island of New Zealand. It is a narrow fjord of around 15 km (10 miles) with sheer rock faces on both sides of up to 4,000 ft at the entrance to the Sound. There are two permanent falls, Lady Bowen and Stirling in the sound. The particular day I was there, the skies were grey with a light drizzle. The ship captain told us we were lucky with the weather because the rain brings on the temporary falls. Sure enough, shortly after we entered the Sound, the sky cleared and we could see literally hundreds of falls running down the rock faces all around us. Milford Sound is located in one of the wettest regions of the world with an average annual rainfall of over 250 inches, making the chance of seeing these multiple falls pretty high.

Jiuzhaigou

Jiuzhaigou is also not a single fall but a nature reserve and national park located in southwest China. Literally translated as “Nine settlement Valley” it is on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau and stretches over 72,000 hectares (180,000 acres). It is known for its many multi-level waterfalls, colorful lakes, and snow-capped peaks. Its elevation ranges from 2,000 to 4,500 metres (6,600 to 14,800 ft). I visited the region in mid-Autumn. The 10,000 ft altitude, the cool temperature and the fresh dusting of snow sure helped to accentuate the tranquility and serenity of this beautiful valley.

There you have it! Five very different waterfalls in five continents. Each one unique and awe inspiring, helping to conjure up images of power, calm, thunder and peace.

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Bali, Bali

Many years ago, while on a cruise, I was seated at a large table for dinner which included three very elegant older ladies. They mentioned that they were on the inaugural, around the world cruise on the same ship a few months back. They were sisters, all widowed and spent most of their days travelling the world, mostly on cruise ships. They had been on at least 3 other world cruises and been to most countries around the world. I asked them what their favorite place was. After some conversing amongst themselves, they said “Bali”.

A friend of mine used to own and operate a chain of travel agencies and got to travel on “fam” trips quite often. I asked him and his wife the same question about their favorite travel destination. She said without hesitation, “Bali”.

Many years later, I finally got the chance to experience it for myself.

Bali is a very small island of about 85 by 50 miles at the widest points. It has almost everything that a vacationer or traveller could want. Beaches, valleys, mountains, temples, beautiful scenery, night-life, culture, entertainment and more. Accommodations range from youth hostels to highest end resorts. Food ranges from local street food to the best gourmet fine dining.

If you want the better Bali experience, stay away from the busy beach towns such as Kuta and Seminyak down south. They are like Cancun or Cabo only with Australians.

I chose to use Ubud as a base and venture to other parts of the Island by hiring a guide/driver for the duration of my stay. Ubud, made famous to the outside world by the Julia Roberts’ movie Eat Pray Love, is a lovely place by its own right. It is located near the center of the Island, relatively small, easily walkable, is full of wonderful restaurants and has a very calm and spiritual feel. A number of surrounding towns each specializing in a different type of art and craft are also worth visiting.

My guide would take me on a different direction of the Island each day to visit different sights. The scenery and encounters on the way were immensely interesting. We came across many, many picture perfect tiered rice fields, tropical forests and parades in small villages celebrating one occasion or another. There are hundreds of temples on the Island and each one is different and has a different theme. At least a dozen of them are worth spending some time in. Bali practices a form of Hinduism (different than in India) and the temples are unique and a refreshing change from the usual Catholic/Christian churches, mosques and Buddhist temples that are so often encountered during travels to other parts of the world.

We travelled to all parts of the island, saw many temples, had many good meals and new experiences. The most memorable moments were when we got caught in a tropical downpour in a little palapa restaurant in the middle of nowhere amongst tiered rice fields. The sound of the rain was deafening and yet there was a calm and mystical feel to the sight of the country-side. Also, a visit to the guide’s home (a compound he shared with his family, parents and families of various siblings and uncles) was a great eye-opener seeing how so many people can live together in such a small space harmoniously and working towards the common good.

My time in Bali was full of adventures and wonder. It offered a little more than the usual sights, cuisine and experiences of other travel destinations. Somehow, it touched my soul and I was moved. The people are kind, joyous and friendly. The land is vast in terms of what it has to offer and with a very spiritual feel. It has its own tradition and habits and is not without its quirks.

On your bucket list??

I loved Bali. It is now on my “one of the favorite destinations” list.