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Traveller's Tales

We have been in upstate NY on the way to Niagara for a few days, and it was quite a revelation. We took the backwoods roads in the main, though not from any desire to avoid the sweeping interstates (up to four lane each way) that had their origins in the Eisenhower era, and that are largely responsible for the flow of commerce that make this country what it is. But it was the network of roads that service the hinterland that interested us.

Upstate NY has huge variations in wealth reflected in the towns through the countryside. Interestingly, it is the areas that support the indoor dairy industry that are by far the most prosperous. Each farm appears to have 100 to 200h. cropping areas, and the familiar domed silos alongside vast Dutch roofed barns, and of course, the open sided sheds housing the stock. Fonterra-like processing facilities are alongside the most picturesque of towns, many with heritage buildings reminiscent of the old Oamaru banks, in fine condition.

The one less appealing aspect relates to the overpoweringly fetid odours that emanate from concentrations of the wintering sheds. Huge tanks of stored effluent are in the process of being spread prior to Spring planting which appears to be mainly corn. There is no evidence of a major ecological damage - possibly because it goes on the fields rapidly, and over a short period. The industry is well supported with the ubiquitous farm subsidies that Washington appears to have given up on removing. The Farm lobby here is the equal of our own, and few legislators are willing to take it on. 

Sleepy hollow communities buried in the Northern Appalachians and Catskills are another story - deep poverty and bedraggled little towns bedecked with broken down utes ('pick-ups'), and the odd sign supporting the prevailing gun culture - not a pretty sight. One thing that fascinated me was the prevalance of advertising for a particular item of North West gastronomic excess described as "Buffalo Wings" - signs promoting them were everywhere, and then I was informed that they originated in Buffalo - a fairly large city in its own right quite close to Niagara. They are nothing to do with buffaloes - they are simply deep fried chicken wings that apparently are in the 'finger licken good' category!. 

As for Niagara - words are hardly adequate to describe the place, fringed with vast ice fields hanging on the sides of the Falls that are a hangover over from one of the worst winters on record. The Lake Erie Ice Booms have not been raised as yet and it should some spectacle when the retained ice floes are finally allowed to crash down over the Falls. What staggered us was that the falls are actually in between two quite large cities on either side of the Niagara River - the 30 story hotels on the Canadian side that include casinos are quite a surprise in this setting. We refrained from crossing over - US Homeland Security is reputedly quite unpredictable regarding re-entry of foreigners on 90 day visas, and the car queues from the Canadian side were long and slow.

All facilities are late opening due to the season but it did not seem to affect our ability to take it all in. Only the Grand canyon compares as a spectacle in my view. It was not exactly on my bucket list, but it is now! 





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