Everyone is getting ready for this year's La Ruta Maya. It starts on Thurday, March 3rd, under the Hawkesworth Bridge. Note that National Heroes and Benefactors Day doesn't coincide with the race this year, but falls on March 9th.
La Ruta Maya -- One of the World's Toughest and Most Historic River Races
In the misty early morning light of March 3, 2016, dozens of athletes will gather with their canoes at the Hawkesworth Suspension Bridge on the banks of the Macal River in San Ignacio, Belize. More than 80 canoes are expected to participate in this year's annual La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge, oared by enthusiasts from around the world. Their objective? To be the first to reach the Belcan Bridge in Belize City, more than 180 miles downriver. The journey takes four days.
La Ruta Maya is the biggest annual sporting event in Belize. Thousands of spectators line the banks of the Belize River to cheer on their favorite teams. The race has its origins in the 1995 Save Our Rivers Programme, a canoe race intended to promote cleaning up debris in and on the banks of the Old Belize River. This event has evolved to become the annual La Ruta Maya Challenge, a four-day event that follows an ancient Mayan route from San Ignacio to Belize City and is ranked 40th on Peak Races' 100 Toughest Races in the World. Anyone can participate.
Teams are rated, from men's professional to mixed youth, for this race that is an opportunity for the diverse population of this country to come together for a four-day weekend on the river. Many follow the race onshore, chasing their favorite teams from Cayo to the Caribbean Sea. Each day, after paddling for hours, the canoe teams come ashore, where they are met by fans at checkpoints in charmingly named local villages, including Banana Bank, Double Head Cabbage, and Burrell Boom.
Belize is an entire country that feels like a small town. Never is this more evident than during La Ruta Maya. The scenes at end-of-day village checkpoints are like big family reunions. Campsites are pitched, Belikin beer tents are set-up, local specialties are prepared over open fires, and children run and play, in the river and on its banks.
The starting point, San Ignacio, is in Belize's Cayo District, the fastest-growing region in the country. This is the country's eco-adventure hub, with all the elements of a fun and sustainable lifestyle--plenty of fertile land, fresh water, sunshine, and wildlife, all supporting a friendly community of fun-loving Belizeans and expats. You still have time to make plans to join them all for their big annual river party.
The Belikin La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge is about 2 weeks away, but the police from Rural Eastern Division have already starting making plans to ensure that the event is free of violence or traffic accidents.
There are favorite spots that residents in the River Valley choose to view the progress of the canoe race as it comes passing by, and the cops have decided that they will have to manage the access that they can give to the public.
Here's what the Rural cops are planning to do when the 3 day race passes by their jurisdiction:
If the plan changes, we'll tell you so that you don't miss your favor canoe teams as they come speeding down the Belize River past your area.
The Ruta Maya River Challenge, held annually in March, brings together 90-100 teams of professional and amateur paddlers from all over the world. It is the longest race of its kind in Central America consisting of 170 miles of paddling on the Belize River over the course of 4 days. The paddlers are challenged by currents, rapids, low areas that require them to physically carry their canoes for short distances and stronger winds as they approach the Caribbean Sea.
The start of the race sees hundreds of locals and visitors trooping to the banks of the Macal River to watch the canoes pass and to cheer on their favourite teams. All teams consist of three members who must be aboard the canoe at the start of the race and no substitutes are allowed once the race has commenced.
The race of a life time: La Ruta Maya Challenge Ready, set, paddle! The 18th Annual La Ruta Maya River Challenge, undoubtedly the most grueling canoe race in Belize, is less than a month away. Scheduled to take place from Friday, March 4th to Monday, March 7th, this test of stamina, endurance and strength will take racers through a 180-mile route along the Macal River in the Cayo District to the Belize River in the Belize District. Excited yet?
In true Belizean style, the La Ruta Maya River Challenge is not only a weekend-long race, but also a weekend-long festive celebration of National Heroes and Benefactors Day, which falls on Wednesday, January 9th but is being observed on Monday. The race takes both participants and spectators through some of the most outstanding sceneries in the country. Of course cheering on those brave paddlers requires some incentives – how about beer, cocktails, classic Belizean eats and even live music? Yup, you are sure to find a party at the several stations of the race or pretty much at any point along the race route you choose.
Over the years the race grown to see up to and over 120 unique canoes in competitions with notable mentions like BATSUB and the Belize Bank, Pine Lumber and Coop Sheet Metal teams all vying for that coveted first place. Winning isn’t everything, however, as anyone who has paddled from start to finish will proudly say “I survived La Ruta Maya River Challenge!” and proud they should be!
So as has been done since 1998, on the 18th anniversary of La Ruta Maya, 60 teams lined up under the Hawkesworth in hopes to paddle their way ahead to the finish line in Belize City on Monday, carrying with them all the excitement and long awaited fun. So to all the teams, good luck, and have a safe, fun filled weekend!
This blog is live and will be updated over the course of the competition with the latest photos and statistics.
Fabulous Images of La Ruta Maya.. Images from this morning's race at the start and at the construction of the new bridge area.
Click photos for more pictures!
A Maya River Route Becomes A Race
Get set! Race of the year (Every Year) – Picture credit: Victor Moreno
There is a river that starts its life in the mountains of Belize from a spring. That spring decided a million years ago that it will find a way through the mountains of a land that later hosted Paleoindians, Archaic people, Proto Maya, Maya people and todays contemporary Belizeans. It ripped its way; it climbed; it pushed; it tore through all barriers it found in its path – cleared all things to the granitic floor that it decided to make its bed.
This river, called the Macal River, is one of two that meet two and a half miles north of San Ignacio and Santa Elena towns (twin towns), and start the longest river in the country called the Belize River. It must be highlighted that the country of Belize may have gotten its name from the name the original Yucatec maya called that river: “Baltiz”, which means “muddy water”.
Every year for over 10 years there is a race that happens on this river. Its called the “La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge”. Its amazing! Do not miss it next year. It all happens on the weekend of the ninth of March every year and you too can be a part of it!
Photo credit – Shaun Ramclam
This race is a commemoration not only of the original “highway” the contemporary people of the area used to travel to and from the economic capital city, Belize City, but also the route and the “causeway” the ancient Maya traveled. They traded and they raided on these rivers. March ninth weekend is a time of family and adventure in Belize. It is also a time of river history and friendships. Its a time of ‘stretching out’ from hectic days, weeks and months. It is also a weekend of water. Everywhere you go around the country of Belize there will be water activities. None, however like the Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge.
We believe you should be here!
Racing teams lining up! Picture credit: Victor Moreno
Ruta Maya 2016, Koop Sheet Metal Dominates First Leg of Annual Race
This morning at the foot of the Hawksworth Bridge in San Ignacio, sixty teams of paddlers gathered on the Macal River to commence. The annual La Ruta Maya Challenge. It was quite a spectacle, as canoes of all colors and paddlers of all ages raced towards the low-lying bridge in a bid to capture the first station prize. From there it was downstream as they made their along the Belize River to Banana Bank. At the end of the first leg Koop Sheet Metal, led by Jerry Rhaburn, had comfortably taken the lead, followed a few seconds later by defending champions B.T.L.’s Cobb’s Arm. News Five’s Isani Cayetano has that story.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
The blare of an air horn at the stroke of seven this morning, officially kicked off the annual Belikin La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge. It is an exhausting, four-day canoe race, the first leg having been completed earlier today. With a total of sixty teams participating in several categories, the competition is fierce; even for veteran athlete Jerry Rhaburn.
Jerry Rhaburn, Captain, Koop Sheet Metal
“Today was a very, very, very stressful day, a nice day. We had a little bit of obstacles, the water is dirty and we can’t, you know, it’s the race and we gotta do with what happens.”
“Now you’re paddling for a new team, so to speak, a different team. What has the chemistry been like between you and your other teammates, in terms of preparing for today’s race?”
“Well, with these guys, you know, we’re experienced paddlers. We couldn’t be better, we can’t ask for better. These guys are young, they’re talented, they’ve been in the race a long time, you know, like myself. We train hard, we spend a lot of time together.”
At various intervals along the winding course, families and friends of the participants lined the banks of the Belize River, cheering on the respective teams as they made their way downstream. Chris Guydis, himself a seasoned paddler, crossed the finish line at Banana Bank in sixth place.
Chris Guydis, Captain, Programme for Belize
“This is the toughest leg of La Ruta [Maya]. The reason why I say it’s the toughest leg because the water is shallow and when the water is shallow it sucks the boat down so you have to use extra fuel fi get it go. And then if yoh noh train pan di waters enough ih da wah real factor, the wata dash yo bout, twist yo bout. Yo gotta know weh paat fi goh. So it’s a real factor for me because I train, to be honest I come and paddle four different days up here. So, and dat no enuff.”
While Guydis may not have had sufficient time to prepare himself and his team for the annual race, Rhaburn, on the other hand, relocated to San Ignacio prior to the challenge for the express purpose of training on the water.
“I spent two weeks out of a whole month in Cayo. Every week I come up and train. I stayed there, so we prepared a lot for this race.”
“Now you have a momentum going into the second leg of the race which is the Banana Bank to Double Head, arguably the longest length of this particular race. How prepared are you guys going into tomorrow?”
“Well we’re prepared, we’re prepared. Like I said, we work, we train hard, we’re in shape, you know. We can’t ask for anything better, we just hope that nothing wrong happens.”
And that means avoiding any spillage. Along the meandering waterway many canoes will overturn. A spill simply means losing precious time.
“Do you believe that you can close the time between where you are presently and the first place team which is that led by Jerry Rhaburn?”
“Impossible. Impossible. I undastand that dehn reach down ya probably bout nine minutes head of me so that very impossible to do because tomorrow di wata wahn be much deeper. So tomorrow you will see that all the six boats more or less wahn deh right together tomorrow because di wata is different now so it won’t be a factor for the, the water will be a factor for the fast boat them tomorrow, you know.”
“Now you mentioned earlier that the water is dirty. What other obstacles are you facing as you’re paddling along the Belize River?”
“Well there’s a lot of stumps underneath the water and you can’t see them with this murky water, you can’t. So you really have to be paying attention to what’s going on because if you hit a log out there you can break the canoe and you can also flip. So that’s the thing, you have to always be on your game.”
The race resumes on Saturday with the second leg commencing at Banana Bank to culminate in Double Head Cabbage. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.
The 19th running of the Belikin La RUta Maya Challenge got underway this morning from San Ignacio, Cayo District. Here is a snapshot of the 180-mile race down the Belize River.
Channel 7 will have live coverage when the race enters Belize City for the finish on Monday morning at around 11:00.
The 18th La Ruta Maya 2016 - San Ignacio
The 18th La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge kicked off today in San Ignacio, under the historic Hawkesworth Bridge, the oldest suspension bridge in Belize, Central America. What started off as a marketing campaign ended up being one of the biggest sporting events in Belize & Central America, and brought about environmental awareness.
Humorous article about training for La Ruta Maya. Cayo spots are all over the article, from Log Cab-Inns to Bamboo Bar. Written by Wayo’s Reef Runners.
""What do all of these things have in common?
Auto repair, meat pies, Guinness, canoe accidents, metal shops, street meat, markets, new friends, jalapeno margaritas, multiple injuries, breakfast burritos, Patrick Warrior, cookies, pizza, Belikin, roulette, penny slots and paddling…….
All of these (and much, much more!) were part of our 3 day 'training' weekend in Cayo to prepare for La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge!
La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge Launch 2016!
The La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge Canoe Race launched today March 4th, 2016 from under the historic Hawkesworth bridge in San Ignacio, Cayo.
San Pedro, Ambergris Caye represented at La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge – ITravel Belize spotted the two teams paddling hard at the beginning of the race. All the best to: Dee Regis, Brittney O’Daniel, Greg Lamb & Lisa Rusinek-Cyrier, Ronnie Cyrier, Wayo Vasquez.
Second leg of La Ruta Maya canoe race
At around 7:00 yesterday morning from beneath Cayo’s Hawkesworth Bridge, 61 teams of paddlers set off on the annual La Ruta Maya canoe race, en route to Banana Bank through the Macal River.
Although the number of teams is a little less than last year’s turnout, it was still a spectacular scene as canoes took off from the starting line on their 49 mile journey, which Koop Sheet Metal’s team completed first, earning it the lead coming into this morning’s journey to Double Head Cabbage.
This morning, the teams once again set off on the second leg of the race which will finish sometime before noon on Monday in Belize City with stops being made along the way.
The three-man team for Programme for Belize out-paddled the Koop Sheet Metal team to cross the finish first, less than two meters ahead, at around 11:15 Monday morning, in the 19th annual La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge.
The two teams came down the Haulover Creek for a couple miles along with four others, and at the final 50 yards nearing the finish at Bottom Dollar, downtown Belize City, Programme for Belize out-paddled Koop Sheet Metal to win $500, courtesy Smart.
Westrack was third and the Belize Bank Bulldogs crossed the finish fourth, followed by the team from NICH in fifth, and BTL’s Cobb’s Arms in sixth position.
Up to the end of the third leg of the race on Sunday, Koop Sheet Metal was in first place in the male category with an accumulated time of 14:28:20. BTL’s Cobb’s Arms was in second with 14:29:17; while Belize Bank Bulldogs stood in third position with an accumulated time of 14:32:33.
In the female category the Belize Bank Bulldogs team was in first position with an accumulated time of 16:17:51.
The overall winners of the race will be announced, during an award ceremony at 3:00 p.m. today.
The four-day canoe race started with 51 teams in San Ignacio town on Friday and stopped in Banana Bank, then Bermudian Landing, then at Henderson’s Bank before the finale in Belize City.