Game on! La Ruta Maya Belize Runs Again
One more reason why springtime is the right time to be in Belize…
Once again, one of the coolest events in all of Central America, and definitely one of the most interesting canoe races in the world is about to take place in Belize.
Yes folks, it’s time for the annual La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge.
Since its humble beginnings in 1998, the La Ruta Maya has grown to become one of the most exciting and popular events in Belize. Worldwide, it’s ranked 40th on “Peak Races’ 100 Toughest Races in the World”.
This year, just after daybreak on March 6, over eighty teams of plucky paddlers will leave San Ignacio Town to begin the gruelling 180-plus mile race to Belize City.
Coinciding with Belize’s annual Baron Bliss Day weekend (and more on that interesting bit of Belizean history in following posts) the race runs for four days through some of the most gorgeous landscapes to be found anywhere, and definitely falls within our “only in Belize” category.
Where else can you compete in a canoe race that traces the ancient Maya trade superhighway from Belize’s densely forested interior to the sparkling Caribbean coast, passing villages along the way with evocative names such as Banana Bank, Burrell Boom and Double Head Cabbage?
And, in true Belize style, it’s barbeque, dance and party time in each of these little villages during the stopover nights.
Much like Belize itself, the race has grown dramatically, one may say spectacularly, from its humble beginnings in 1998, when Richard Harrison of Big H Enterprises first sponsored the event to highlight Belize’s Maya past and help raise awareness of the need to protect Belize’s beautiful river system.
Various intrepid souls with access to anything resembling a canoe thought, “why not”? At times woefully underprepared, we all shared food and drinks, slept under trucks and happily roughed it those first halcyon years, but there was a definite feeling that this was something so cool it couldn’t help but to grow.
And so it has, morphing into an international event that sees between 90 to 100 teams from Belize, the USA, Canada, Japan, the U. K. and other countries participating in boats ranging from high tech to low tech to no tech vying for the coveted Kinich Ahau trophy.
From the exuberant early morning crowds lining the banks of the Macal River in San Ignacio, on to the villagers and farmers cheering along the way before the final wild reception as the winners pass under the Belcan Bridge in Belize City, it’s a happy, high-energy event that never fails to enthral.
If you can’t be in Belize during the long March 6th Baron Bliss day weekend, you can still experience the next best thing – a leisurely paddle along Belize’s beautiful river system; a network that has continuously sustained life, commerce and culture in Belize since around 2000 BC as the ancient Maya civilization expanded throughout an area that encompassed present day Yucatan, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and beyond.
The Guava Limb Cafe Team:
This year Chaa Creek’s woodwork shop has worked harder than ever to create a winning canoe that will be used by the Harris Family to compete in this year’s race – The Guava Limb Cafe Team. Here is a video showcasing a part of the process of getting the canoe ready for this gruesome four day challenge: