This is more of a special event. It happens once a year and when it’s over a lot of people are in pain. La Ruta Maya is a four day race from the Hawksworth bridge in San Ignacio to Belcan Bridge, 175 miles (282km) down river in Belize City.
Now, oddly enough, the whole thing was started as a marketing gimmick in 1998, by Big H, a local orange juice company. They had started a new bottled water company and wanted something big to kick it off, so they came up with La Ruta Maya. Thankfully, in the following years, it’s turned into something bigger and better than a giant ad. Anyone can enter in pretty much any kind of canoe. There are 8 different classes, but unfortunately you only win money for being the fastest. The winners usually come in around 18hrs of paddling. If you were wondering how fast that is, about 9.5 miles per hour. Held constant for 4 days. By three people. No switching paddlers. All you can do is take the pain, tape your hands and cry yourself to sleep. Really.
With that said, if you like pain (or have hands made of Kevlar, muscles like steel cable and a heart the size of your head), you can enter. The race is set to coincide with Barron Bliss Day, meaning it usually starts around March 9th. The basic gist of it is something like this. You register by the 26th of February, pay 250bz (125us) and on the day you head to the line. The first day is 49 miles, the second is 60 miles, the third is 36 miles and the final is 26 miles. Times are noted at the end of the day and started the next day in the order they arrived. The paddlers are met at the end of each day by their support crew, who should have tents, food and booze waiting. And that’s pretty much it.
If you are coming in for the race and want a show-up-get-in-the-boat-and-go type of thing you’ll want to give La Ruta Maya Outfitters a shout. For all the official rules, regulations and entry stuff go here.
On one final note. If you are going to do the race, everyone is going to tell you to pee on your hands. Gloves really are the better way to go.