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,
Posted in Adventurous Places, North America, Tall Tales and Big Fish Stories and tagged Hawaii, North Shore, Oahu, Waimea Falls, Waimea Valley by Big John with no comments yet.
Posted in Adventurous Places, Europe, Tall Tales and Big Fish Stories and tagged Antwerp, Belgium, Europe by Big John with no comments yet.
I used to be a run-of-the-mill, regular Joe just like the rest of you. I did all my extensive shopping at Walmart; got my six-dollar haircuts at Superclips; and spent my annual vacations at the Shady Palms motel, conveniently located only a breezy twenty-minute walk from the beach. I’ve never owned multiple properties (or any property not on cinder-blocks for that matter); I’ve never mingled with celebrities; and I’ve certainly never claimed to come from any line of royalty. I was an ordinary Andy, trying to do my best just to survive that daily grind. This would have been the sad and mundane story of my life, had not a simple DNA testing kit changed everything.
The kit that changed everything.
When my wife told me she picked up something intimate and personal for my 45th birthday, I was thinking Victoria’s Secret for sure. Every woman knows that there’s no greater gift than to dazzle her man in something made of satin and lace. Well, apparently in my wife’s inner-circle, she was never privy to such valuable information. In my wife’s inner circle, the very best birthday gifts are those that you never knew you wanted. So, you can only imagine my feigned excitement and very real surprise when I unwrapped a DNA testing kit called 23andMe. Honestly though, it was a thoughtful and unique gift. Had I known that I would soon be filling a large vial with spit, I just would’ve eaten less chocolate and Doritos prior to opening it.
After mailing off the completed kit, It only took about 3 short weeks before the results were back in. By that time, I had totally forgotten I had sent the thing away. I had even stopped asking my wife why it was we never really celebrated my birthday. Frankly, my wife was a bit more eager to see the report than I was. Those sort of things are expected though when you’re constantly asking yourself the question, “Who the heck did I marry… and why?” Anyways, nothing could have prepared us for what my lab results would reveal (posted below).
European – 99.3%/ Other – 0.7%
- British & Irish – 47.5%
- Eastern European – 10.0%
- French & German – 7.7%
- Scandinavian – 2.7%
- Iberian – 1.8%
- Broadly Northwestern European – 25.7%
- Broadly Southern European – 0.3%
Broadly European – 3.9%
- King of Bruges, Belgium – 0.7%
A short video clip in the center of Bruges, Belgium.
Bruges, Belgium, a UNESCO world heritage site, is the capital city of the province of West Flanders. Due to its numerous canals, Bruges is often referred to as the Venice of the North. During the Golden Age (12th to 15th century), Bruges was considered one of the most important commercial cities in all of Europe. Foreigners, most notably Portuguese tradesmen, would regularly travel to Bruges to barter their peppers and other exotic spices.
The Kruispoort Gate is one of four remaining gates leading into the famous walled city of Bruges.
The Kruispoort Gate was the first structure I encountered upon my arrival in Bruges. Built in 1400 AD, the Kruispoort Gate was said to have been used by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Napoleon, and the entire German army back in World War II. Considering it was the closest thing I had ever seen to a real-life castle, I decided then and there I would claim it as my regal abode. My only real concern was whether or not it had WIFI.
Rebecca stands ready to measure the drapes at the Kruispoort Gate.
Bastiaan the Bell-ringer greets the next king of Bruges.
As luck would have it, Bastiaan the Bell-ringer was the first person I encountered when arriving at the gate. Judging by his traditional garb, I immediately recognized him to be a prestigious representative of the city. When presented with the undisputable evidence of my 23andMe report, Bastiaan wasted no time rendering a curtsy and asking how he might be of service. I instructed Bastiaan to prepare the Kruispoort to serve as my future castle-home. I then ordered him to assign me some temporary lodging until my dwelling was made suitable for its royal inhabitants.
Bastiaan informed me that he would require a hundred or so Euros to purchase the renovation supplies needed to restore my castle up to city-code. After paying the guy his money, I was advised to report to Hotel Duke’s Palace and tell them, “Bastiaan the Bell-ringer sent me”. Before leaving, Bastiaan ensured me that my castle would be ready in only a couple of days. He told me that he would toll the bells of the belfry seven times when he was ready for my return. Even though it wasn’t even lunchtime yet, and Bastiaan appeared drunker than Cooter Brown, I had no reason to believe he wouldn’t deliver on his promise.
Cobblestone streets leading into the center of Historic Bruges
The Hotel Duke’s Palace is the former residence of Burgundian aristocrats and features 110 luxurious rooms.
The Hotel Duke’s palace was even more exquisite than what Bastiaan had described. Unfortunately, the proprietors were unacquainted with my bell-ringing friend and they were equally unimpressed with my royal bloodline. Oh, the insolence of some people! To think, he had the nerve to ask me to pay money like I’m some sort of common guest. I see now it won’t be easy restoring the rule of law around these parts. I was going to have to rule with an iron fist.
Rebecca stands on the balcony of our room at the beautiful B&B in Bruges.
After receiving such a cold reception at the Hotel Duke’s palace, I was prepared to return to my castle and give Bastiaan a piece of my mind. Rebecca advised against it and informed me that she had already gone with her “plan B”. Apparently she had hatched this alternate plan prior to our arrival into town. As I soon discovered, we already had beautiful accommodations awaiting us at the B&B in Bruges.
The B&B in Bruges offered us a wonderful stay and the owner treated us like proper royalty. Situated close to the historical city center, the house was in close walking distance to all of that Bruges had to offer. My favorite thing about being a guest there had to be the breakfast served each morning. The owner served both hot and cold breakfast items. He was more than accomodating and went out of his way to fix any type of eggs that one might request. His Belgium-styled omelette comes highly recommended!
Our private suite came with a sitting room, bedroom, private bathroom, and a balcony that overlooked the medieval streets.
It’s tea-time for Rebecca!
Looking down into the courtyard from our suite.
This old stove was the charming centerpiece in the basement kitchen of B&B Bruges.
A table set for royalty.
A delicious breakfast is prepared daily at B&B in Bruges.
Rebecca looks out over Bruges from the vantage point of her balcony.
As the official king of Bruges, I only drink official Bruges Beer!
If you have a taste for Belgium beers, the city has three active breweries.
I imagine the owner of this moped probably stays pretty thirsty!
There she is, the queen of Bruges!
The De Vlaamsche Pot, pictured in the background serves traditional Flemish cuisine to include pancakes and waffles.
While walking around the streets of Bruges for the first time, I pretty much stayed incognito. I didn’t want all of the cheering crowds and excessive bowing that might interfere with me getting a good feel for the place. There would be plenty of time later for people to shower me with praises and swear their eternal allegiance to me. In the meantime, I assumed the role of a lowly American tourist; and with iPhone in hand, I went about snapping photos of everything!
Because of its numerous canals, Bruges has been deemed the Venice of the North.
Her future is so bright, she should really start wearing shades!
Boatloads of villagers arrive at the city square to pay homage to their new king!
As it turned out, the boat went motoring right on past me. Apparently they were just on one of the many canal tours offered daily in Bruges. It appeared that Bastiaan the Bell-ringer hadn’t yet gotten around to informing city officials of my fresh arrival.
The Bourgogne des Flandres brews a delicious red-brown Flemish beer and offers regular tasting tours.
During the 15th century, beer was one of Bruges’ chief exports. At that time, the fortified city had over 50 breweries in operation. Bruges produces a blonde Belgium beer so delicious that even American brewing companies often try to replicate it. Blue Moon and Shocktop are just two American versions of their highly-regarded product. As my first official duty as King of Bruges, I decided to inspect the local breweries and make sure their beers were still up to specification. This work would require due diligence and a lot of sampling, but a king’s work is never done.
Bicycles and Breweries in Bruges
The Chocolatier Dumon offers artisan chocolates in the heart of medieval Bruges.
Chocolate production in Belgium dates as far back as the 17th century, To this day, Belgian chocolate makes up a major part of the country’s industry and is widely associated with Belgium’s culture and identity.
Window-shopping is always fun while out on a romantic stroll in this picturesque city.
They take the term sinful chocolate to an entirely different level!
Belgium waffles were originaly called Brussels waffles. The name was eventually changed because many Americans didn’t identify Brussels as being Belgium’s capital city.
A plate of rabbit or Flemish stew is the typical fare in Bruges.
Käthe Wohlfahrt is a well-known German company that sells traditional Bavarian Christmas decorations. The window display reminded me of my mother’s Christmas displays when I was a child.
A pair of lions guard the city’s coat of arms atop this decorative fountain.
Bruges offers many well-traveled paths offering unique shopping experiences.
The Belfry of Bruges is the town’s most recognizable feature. During the Middle Ages, this 83-meter-high tower served as the town’s treasury and contained all of its coffers.
Visitors are challenged to climb all 366 steps of the belfry for a spectactular view of the fairytale city below.
Big John poses in front of the statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck on the Grote Markt.
In 1309, Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck became the heroes of Bruges after leading a bloody uprising against occupying French forces.
Bruges’ market square features numerous open-air dining opportunities.
The Town Hall in Castle Square, Bruges
After spending two glorious days touring the city of Bruges, I started to become a bit apprehensive. Whatever became of Bastiaan the Bell-ringer. Why had he not yet signaled me from the belfry, informing me that my castle was move-in ready? At this point, perhaps a bit of investigating was in order.
The King of Bruges stands for a photo in front of one of Bruges’ numerous churches.
On our way back to the Kruispoort Gate, we continued to explore all of Bruges beautiful Gothic structures and medieval atttractions.
A scene of Jesus’ crucifixion adorns this exterior city wall.
Throughout the centuries, houses of worship remained a constant and abundant source of spiritual enlightenment for the citizens of Bruges. The city has no shortage of churches, monasteries, abbeys, cathedrals and chapels.
A sculpture of “God the Father” inside St. Salvator’s Cathedral
The sight of McDonald’s hamburgers made me feel not so far from home.
I wonder if Ray Kroc ever envisioned his burgers would become internationally known?
A pedestrian crosses the canal on a traditional stone bridge.
Rebecca could care less about who was king of the castle; she was enjoying herself just exploring all of the wonderful sights!
Rows of colorful brick houses line the canals.
Visitors to Bruges can take a short walk along the ramparts to see all of Bruges’ beautiful windmills.
During our search for the elusive bell-ringer, Rebecca and I happened upon a line of charming windmills once used to grind corn and other grains.
Rebecca explores the site of the Sint-Janshuismill.
Built in 1770, the Sint-Janshuismill is the oldest windmill in Bruges and the only one standing at its original site. This mill is also the only one with a museum inside open to the public.
Rebecca teased me that the wooden steps leading up to the windmill almost shattered under my weight. I might need to lay off the beer for awhile!
With minimal automobile traffic, the medieval city of Bruges is best explored on bicycle or by foot.
Much of these houses have stood here for hundreds of years.
There’s nothing Rebecca enjoys more than drinking tap water from a medieval city well! She has an iron stomach.
Rebecca was illustrating how people in medieval times were once no taller than me.
She then went on to say that my 23andMe report was wrong. I did not belong in Belgium at all. I belonged in New Zealand with the Bagginses and the rest of the Hobbits (She always has a way of saying just the right things to make me feel good.)
The Provincial Court building in Bruges’ Market Square
I may not have been in town long, but something in that canal seemed drastically out of place!
This blue whale, named “skyscraper”, was created from 5 tons of plastic pulled out of the Pacific Ocean.
Big John poses in front of the big plastic whale to raise awareness of our littered oceans.
My baby-doll stands in front of the Jan Van Eyck statue.
Jan Van Eyck was an early Netherlands painter who did much of his life’s work in the walled city of Bruges. Eyck was considered one of the greatest Northern European painters of the 15th century.
I thought these bikes lined up along the cobblestone street offered a classic glimpse of life in Belgium.
I snapped this picture for Rebecca who by now was desperately missing her cat.
Rebecca stands in front of the Basilica of the Holy Blood. This Roman Catholic site is alleged to house a sample of blood taken from the body of Jesus Christ. The blood was said to have been originally collected by Joseph of Arimathea and then brought from the Holy Land during the Crusades.
The setting sun casts a splash of color along the bricks and cobblestones of this ancient street.
The Historium in Bruges’ market square offers a virtual reality experience sending visitors back to the Golden Age.
After spending two unforgettable nights in Bruges, we eventually found our way back to Bastiaan the Bell ringer and the Kruispoort Gate. Bastiaan was located nearby, tucked away under a stairwell and sleeping off a Belgian-bottled binge. I roused him from his slumber and inquired as to the availability of my castle. “Haven’t you heard?”, the bell-ringer asked, “Wilbur from Minot, North Dakota, arrived in town just yesterday. He had a DNA report revealing himself to be .08% the King of Bruges. He’s already paid me to set up his residency in the belfry tower.”
I spent the next hour or so drowning my tears at the closest tavern. I can’t believe that I lost my entire kingdom over a mere fraction of a decimal point. I didn’t stay upset for too long though. Rebecca reminded me that, no matter what, I would always be her king (Rebecca always knows just what to say to cheer me up). Life is good when you’re the king of Bruges!
Whether you are a king or a commoner, Bruges Belgium is worthy of your visit.
Happy travels and… all hail the king,
Posted in Adventurous Places, Europe, Tall Tales and Big Fish Stories and tagged Belgium, Bruges by Big John with no comments yet.