Saturday, 11 June 2011

Fort Erie, Canada - The kindness of strangers

In America in the early 19th century there existed a secret network of trails and safehouses called “The Underground Railway” that was used to help African slaves escape to freedom in Canada. The last stop on the “railway” was the town of Lewiston on the Niagara River and the place where the slaves finally crossed the water to safety and a new life is known as “The Freedom Crossing”. The Underground Railway was operated by volunteers who risked their own lives to show humanity and kindness to strangers. Graham and I discovered that this ethos of kindness remains strong today in America and in the little town of Lewiston.

Our beautiful bicycle journey along the Erie Canal has now ended and we’ve crossed into Canada. We parted company with the canal at the attractive town of Lockport where we were hosted in the home of a lovely couple, David and Kathy, who we’d contacted via a network of touring cyclists on the internet. They entertained us with scary bear stories and sent us off in the morning with goodies in our panniers. The Erie Canal has been so very special and I will look back on these days as one of the highlights of this whole adventure. We’ve watched boats potter up and down; marvelled at the locks; cycled through woodlands, orchards and pretty canal-side towns; learned lots of history; and met loads of wonderful, kind people.

From Lockport we cycled to the delightful town of Lewiston with its colourful clapperboard buildings and sidewalk cafes. We’d met a great couple, Connie and Tom, a week earlier near Schenectedy. As well as entertaining us around their campfire, they put us in touch with Tom’s niece, Kris, in Lewiston. Kris welcomed us into her home, let us throw our tents up on the lawn, laid on a barbeque and invited her friends round to meet us. We had an absolutely wonderful time!

Lewiston is not only famous for the Freedom Crossing. A few miles up-river is a small water feature that you might have heard of called Niagara Falls! Yes, we donned those ridiculous plastic macs, got soaked in the drenching mists and marvelled at the beautiful cascades of water. We felt so lucky to be able to gaze on one of the most famous natural wonders of the world. But we felt even luckier to have come across so many good people on our travels and the overwhelming kindness of strangers.

Photos on Flickr.

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