Gutsy Gladiators and Spanish Bulls or the History of Cartagena

Just off the Mediterranean coast, in the Region of Murcia, is the Spanish city of Cartagena. In addition to its natural seaport, the ancient city of Cartagena was strategically important to both Carthage and Rome due its close proximity to rich silver mines during that period of time. From Carthaginians, to Romans, to Moors, the Mediterranean city of Cartagena has a very long and colorful history. Visitors entering the city today will find remnants of that glorious past in the form of murals, mosaics, and Roman ruins. Perhaps the most fascinating of all is the Roman theatre of Cartagena which was only uncovered in recent years.


The Roman Theatre of Cartagena

The Roman Theatre of Cartagena was built between 5 and 1 B.C., at the times of Gaius and Lucius, the grandsons of Caesar Augustus. In the 3rd century A.D., a market was built over the theatre and then a cathedral in the 12th century. It wasn’t until the 1990s that excavations were begun to restore the site to its former glory.


After touring the ancient amplitheatre, my mind kept racing back to those glory days when I lived that life of a daring and dashing gladiator.


Big John in his glory days!



Big John standing at the massive theatre wall, reminiscing back to his Spartacus years.


Just recently, archeologists discovered completely intact cages that once housed gladiators and various animals.

Scenes of antiquity from the extraordinary history of Cartagena


Rebecca was rather upset when she found out she missed the gladiator show by a few thousand years.


I thought I had found the largest door in the city…


…but then she just had to go and one up me!


The town hall of Cartagena



Armed with my trusty iPhone camera, I was ready to hit the streets!

These buildings in the barrio were mostly false fronts!


Big John tries to flex under the mighty limbs of an old banyan tree.


…and there stands my beautiful Spanish flower!


I’m not quite sure, but I believe this kid is singing to a fish. I think that may be a warning not to drink the water coming from this fountain!


Cartagena has a history of bullfighting that dates back to the 13th Century.  Although the city no longer hosts these events, bullfighting can still be found in other regions of Mercia and Spain.

I never knew there was so much beauty in the streets of Spain!


Under a canopy of ancient Roman ruins.


Much of Cartagena is still an active archeological site.


All of these ancient ruins reminded me of our fascinating trip to the city of Rome.


These bronze ladies are sharing spreading good news in the midst of San Sebastian Plaza.



San Sabastian plaza offers visitors an excellent shopping and dining experience.



Much of Cartagena’s beautiful architecture seems to be a clash between the Renaissance and modernist flair.


If I didn’t know any better, I’d say she had a thing for cops.



The walled remnants of an ancient fortress perched high on a Cartagena hill.


A statue of Hannibal Barca

Hannibal Barca was a general from Ancient Carthage who is widely considered one of the greatest military commanders in history. Much of Hannibal’s fame was gained in heavy combat during the Second Punic War.


Rebecca would travel all the way to Cartagena just to eat delicious tapas!

After miles of sightseeing through a city full of fascinating history, Rebecca and I were ready to enjoy one of Cartagena’s greatest treasures – her insanely good Spanish cuisine! Even the ancient Carthaginians knew the importance of throwing a good feast!

I hope our journey through Cartagena inspired you to pack those bags and embark on an adventure all of your own making. Thank you for visiting Big John’s Adventures in Travel and please feel free to explore more of my site.


Happy travels,

Big John

Posted in Adventurous Places, Europe, Historical Journeys and tagged , by with no comments yet.

Fantastic Food Trucks and More Scenes from the North Shore

Anybody who has spent more than a few days on Oahu will tell you that some of the best food on the island is found at food trucks on the North Shore. These colorful restaurants on wheels first began springing up around Honolulu in the 1970s. Back then it was mainly burgers, hotdogs, and the traditional Asian cuisine. Now-a-days, a person can satisfy any cravings from zesty street tacos to wasabi-flavored poke bowls.

Some of the best food trucks on Oahu are found on the North Shore, directly across the street from Shark’s Cove.

If Rebecca and I had to pick a favorite mobile eatery it would definitely be Aji Limo Truck!

All of Aji’s dishes are made with the freshest local fish and organic produce bought from the nearby Pupukea Garden Farms.

Don’t worry, the beers were all mine! This little mommy always plays it safe and refrains from consuming raw fish or adult beverages.

This California inspired dish consisted of Sashimi, rice, avacados, and salad…. Yes, it was every bit as good as it looks!

Rebecca had the Thai poke (only she had them throw the fish on the grill to make her meal pregnancy-friendly). This tasty dish consisted of fresh salmon, mango, cilantro, crispy coconut and coconut sauce over rice and organic greens.

Our friend, Foghorn Leghorn, decided to show up for dinner unannounced. He’s lucky I had a little extra corn to spare!

This truly is my happy place!

If tacos are your thing than don’t go far. You’re not going to find anywhere better than North Shore Tacos.

North Shore Tacos offers shrimp, fish, chicken, beef, steak, pork, and even a vegetarian option as well… Yum!

For a little slice of heaven right on the North Shore, come visit Jerry’s Pizza! He also has some pretty amazing subs, salads and desserts.


Get your surf lessons and rentals at North Shores Surf Shop

Your momma warned you never to enter the water right after eating… but then again, your momma has probably never been to Hawaii’s North Shore!

Rebecca thought it would be fun to hide her baby-bump behind this purple Hawai sarong.

I would probably be the scariest mermaid you could ever meet at sea!

Cars line the strip in front of shark’s cove.

Shark’s Cove is a popular tourist site for snorkeling and it is fairly shallow. The water does get up to 20 feet at the cove’s mouth and many scuba divers explore the areas just outside the cove. A few caves can be found around the cove’s northwest point, and to a lesser extent to the south. The area to the left of the cove offers excellent night diving. The origin of the cove’s name is uncertain, but sharks are not any more common here than other places on Oahu.

Laniakea Beach in North Shore

Probably one of the best places to sea a Hawaiian green sea turtle basking in the sun is at Laniakea Beach.

The Hawaiian green sea turtles arrives onto Laniakea Beach most regularly around lunch time. The sea turtles and I share that in common, since lunch time is also my favorite time to visit the area. But regardless of whether you’re coming to surf, snorkel, chow down, or simply bask under a Hawaiian sun, there is never a really bad to to visit Oahu’s fabulous North Shore!

Mahalo and happy travels,

Big John

Posted in Adventurous Places, Great Dining, North America and tagged , , , by with 4 comments.

Deep Inside Waimea Valley and a Deadly Game of Checkers

Beads of sweat began streaming down my brow as I meticulously plotted my next action. If I moved diagonally to my right, I could capture my opponent’s stone and land in a spot not threatened by any of his forward-moving advances. I was running short on options at this point in the game, so this move just had to work. By making this play, I would brilliantly force him into a corner. From that point on, he would be playing purely from a defensive posture. I would have him tight against the ropes and victory, along with that sweet taste of freedom, would finally be in my grasp!

Big John keeps his poker face as he plays a very deadly game of checkers.

With a trembling hand, I gingerly lifted my white coral rock from the slab. I hesitated before moving, just long enough to steady myself and peer directly into his sinister eyes. I needed to witness the humiliation on his face as his lowliest captive beat him at his very own game. I wanted to observe his complete and utter shame as the village’s waterboy spanked him in front of every single member of the tribe. I would make him sorry…

sorry he ever took me prisoner; sorry he made me haul water down from Holikamoli mountain during the hottest part of each day; sorry he made me dance in that scratchy grass skirt and coconut bra every night, just to make the grandmothers laugh…

Oh yes, he would be sorry!

Back during my dancing days (I’m really not proud of this).

My opponent met my gaze and our eyes locked for what seemed an eternity. In a single strategical hop, I bounded over his small piece of black lava rock and then gleefully removed it from the board. What was that? Did I detect a bit of fear in those dark, mischievous eyes? Actually, I didn’t observe anything like that. Shifting rearward in his seat, the powerful man threw back his shoulders and broke out in a bellowing laugh. He then picked up one his pieces positioned just behind mine, curled his upper lip, and swiftly hopped over all of the chunks of white coral remaining on the board.

“Hey, you can’t move backwards!” I protested. “I never kinged you!”

“Can’t I?” he replied. “I didn’t need you to king me. I have been king of this village long before you ever arrived”.

As much as I hated to admit it, I really couldn’t argue with the man’s superb logic. King Millivinilli most certainly was the king of the village, which meant I was most certainly playing by the king’s rules.  The established terms of King Millivinilli’s game of checkers were very deadly, albeit rather simple ones. Unbeknownst to many, the people living in Waimea Valley have a long-standing tradition that goes back hundreds of years. Whenever one of their captives loses his usefulness, or entertainment value, he is forced to play the king in a high-stakes game of checkers. If the captive wins the game, then he also wins his freedom. If he loses the game… well, then that poor soul also loses his life.

So there I was, blind-folded, gagged and hog-tied to a pole like the main attraction at a Friday-night luau. With torches lit and drums-a-beating, the long procession of villagers began careening up the winding path towards the top of fiery Mount Chilichanga.  With each step carrying me ever closer to the volcano’s mouth, the heated air became more and more stifling. I could scarcely breath any longer. I felt myself drifting in and out of consciousness.  Was this really the end?

Will Big John face an agonizing death by being cast into the mouth of Mount Chilichanga? Will he fool the King and completely turn the tables around? You’ll just have to keep reading to find out more!

Having never really been a fan of human sacrifices, especially when they involve me plunging headlong into a lava pool, I had mere seconds to devise a plan of escape. As fate would have it, there was just one more trick concealed inside of my trusty little…

Okay… Okay, I am sorry but I’m going to have to stop this story right here. As some of you may already know, there aren’t really any active volcanos anywhere near Waimea Valley. Admittingly, I made that part of the story up, but the rest is pretty much factual. To be completely honest with you, Rebecca said she wasn’t going to let me post any of these pictures if she caught me so-called “bending the truth” anymore.

The truth is Rebecca doesn’t really even know the entire story. Honestly, she has no idea what even happened here.  As I was falling victim to the crime of the century, all she could worry about was if the foodtruck would still be selling kalua pork when we finished the hike. Yes, she did enter into Waimea Valley with me, and she did accompany me on most of the trail towards the falls; however, she missed a whole lot of very important events along the way.

Rebecca standing at the entrance of the Waimea Valley Visitor’s Center

As is evident from the picture above, Rebecca did enter into Waimea Valley with me. What that picture doesn’t show, nor is it revealed in any of the other pictures, was just how distracted Rebecca was during our entire hike towards the falls.

I captured this photo when I first stumbled into King Millivinilli’s village. Rebecca wasn’t with me at the time because, as expected with someone so great with child, she had to walk back to the visitor’s center to use the potty.

Rebecca still wasn’t anywhere nearby when King Millivinilli, along with fifty of his men, sprang from this hut and violently captured me at the tip of their spears.

As you can clearly see here, Rebecca was still nowhere in the vicinity when the king had me bound with ropes and dragged over those large boulders towards my bamboo prison.

Rebecca may have reached the village by the time this picture was taken. However, she was dealing with a melting ice cream sandwich so she definitely was oblivious to any of her surroundings.

This is just a picture of a hut where King Millivinilli’s men made all of their canoes. There was really nothing nefarious to see here, I think we can move on.

Aha! This is the hut where the king kept me captive. If the camera was of better quality and the picture wasn’t so dark, you would clearly see me tied to the center pole inside. The only thing you wouldn’t see in this picture is Rebecca, because once again, she just happened to be nowhere in sight!

A picture of Big John’s former prison (after making his escape).

It was near this reprehensible spot that I was first made to dance for the grandmothers (I guess Rebecca missed all of that too).

Look I can go on and on, displaying every single graphic and disturbing photo chronicling my time spent here in captivity. But for what purpose? I think by now, my readers can clearly see that something very ugly and very sinister went down here in the valley. As far as Rebecca is concerned, we will just leave her clinging to her false sense of security.

This was the very last picture I took as I fled from that ancient village. I am not ashamed to say it, that even after all this time, the place still gives me nightmares.  I finally located Rebecca just a few hundred feet up the trail. She had been chasing a rainbow and some Kamahameha butterflies.

After making my harrowing escape, (the details of which I may later disclose in the absence of any skeptics), the remainder of our trek to Waimea Falls was peaceful and uneventful.

Along the way we viewed alluring red flowers blooming amongst the ferns.

We gazed across a lively pond teeming with lilly pads.

We walked under the boughs of a great banyan tree and found some relief in the shade.

Along the way, we observed bunches of bananas ripening in a tree.

We saw palms that stood over the jungle like the necks of great dinosaurs.

Along the way we saw other great palms with branches that spread out like magnificent fans.

We even encountered a man who could skillfully fashion select pieces of God’s creation into beautiful leis.

Near the end of our trail, we encountered two women weaving some lovely baskets from the nearby reeds.


During our trek through Waimea Valley, we experienced so much more than most could ever imagine.  Since Rebecca would unequivocally deny much of the horrors the beseiged me here that day, I will leave you to remember the pictures we took of the more pleasant stuff along the way. However, should you feel daring enough to explore more of my mishaps and unmentionable escapades, please visit my site under the category: Tall Tales and Big Fish Stories.

Big John and Rebecca at Waimea Falls

Thank you for visiting Big John’s Adventures in Travel! I hope this post inspired you to pack those bags and set out on an adventure all of your own making.

Mahalo and happy travels,

Big John

Posted in Adventurous Places, North America, Tall Tales and Big Fish Stories and tagged , , , , by with no comments yet.
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