The seventh annual La Ruta Maya River Challenge - the longest canoe race in Central America - will be held from March 5 - 8, 2004 in Belize. The event is now considered Belize’s most talked about sporting event, the competition attracts hundreds of extreme canoeists from around the globe, including the U.S, to embark on this invigorating challenge.
Participants set off down the Belize River from San Ignacio, located in western Belize along the Guatemalan border, and begin the 180-mile journey. The arduous four-day race will test the paddlers’ endurance until they reach their final destination in Belize City.Sponsored by the Belize Canoe Association, La Ruta Maya will once again be held as an effort to restore and revitalize the Belize River, with all profits given to local environmental groups that help keep the waterway clean.According to La Ruta Maya Committee Member, Mike Green, the race seeks to highlight the environmental, historical and cultural & tourism aspects of the Belize Old River area. “The race is a celebration of the allure of the river and the abundance of the incredible natural and cultural resources that are in the region,” he explains. Consisting of a maximum of three paddlers, each team will compete in one of seven different divisions on the basis of age, gender and construction of canoes.Entry fees are US$125 with a grand prize of US$3,000. Sponsors such as PEPSI, The Lodge at Chaa Creek, Big-H Juice, Vida Purified Water and Belize Electric Company Ltd will award a first place cash prize and the perennial “Kinich Ahua” (Maya Sun God) trophy to the team with the best overall time at the finish line. The H Team is the current titleholder and team to beat this year. “For those who are up to the challenge, La Ruta Maya River Challenge promises high thrills and steadfast competition,” states Green. “It’s the adventure of a lifetime.” Fittingly, the race will once again be held in conjunction with the country’s Baron Bliss Day celebrations – a large Belizean festival that commemorates adventurer Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss, who sailed to Belize in 1926 and fell in love with the country, subsequently establishing a $2 million trust fund for the sole benefit of Belizeans. Honouring Bliss, Belizeans have always celebrated the holiday with water sporting events. The canoe race is a means of further enhancing the celebrations.