The male team from Koop Sheet Metal was declared on Monday the overall winner of the 19th running of La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge as they made their swift entrance into Belize City. Their total time paddling in the waters of the 170 mile stretch of Macal and Belize River during four consecutive days was 17 hours, eight minutes and 16 seconds, followed behind by only a few minutes at their ending point in Belize City by BTL Cobbs Arm, and Belize Bank Bulldogs, which ranked third place. Champions from Koops Sheet Metal, Henry Cruz, Jerry Canto and Jerry Rhaburn were awarded on Monday evening in Belize City for their well deserved efforts.
Some 61 teams of canoeists sped off over the higher than normal Macal River, under the Hawkesworth Bridge in San Ignacio Town at exactly 7:00 am on Friday and at the signaling of a sounding device at the hands of a Belize Defense Force solider. As they made their way downriver to the lower lying wooden bridge, some boats would flip, leaving others to win station prizes along the waterway, which was once used by the Mayas for transport and later on by the various early Belize settlements.
Just a night before at the Cayo Welcome Center, an event was held to prepare the paddlers for their long four day journey, from San Ignacio to Banana Bank on Friday (60 miles), from Banana Bank to Double Head Cabbage on Saturday (49 miles), from Double Head Cabbage to Henderson’s Bank on Sunday (36 miles) and their final and shortest journey from Henderson’s Bank to Belize City on Monday (25 miles). Present to lay the foundation for the race at the Cayo Welcome Center on Thursday night was the Hon. Elodio Aragon, Minister of State for Youth, Sports and Culture, who had a special message for young people.
“I just want to tell the young people that there are so many things happening in this Country; especially in terms of culture when you look at La Ruta Maya that is one of the biggest events we have in this Country in terms of bringing together sports, culture and history. You know this is an event that I think that after 19 years has caught on [and] has gotten rooted, in our Belizean society. I think this La Ruta Maya is something that everybody looks towards within the coming year.”
In the opening ceremonies last Friday, one of the organizers Dr. Aline Harrison, said that the La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge was incorporating culture, history and environmental aspects.
Roberto Harrison, who is one of the organizers’ of this year’s race and who is also Belize’s Chief Agriculture Officer says that “…there is obviously a lot of agricultural development that has been happening along the Belize River from the mouth of what forms the Belize River, Mopan and Macal.” He believes that there is need for “…more awareness of the level of agricultural development that has been happening along the Belize River in that stretch of space, quite a bit of agricultural development has in fact been happening, which has perhaps gone somewhat unmonitored in a certain sense..”
Roberto Harrison told the Guardian that he believes that part of the obligation of the La Ruta Maya race is to bring about awareness and to inform the public at large that “… you have runoffs into the river, fertilizers, chemicals, what have you and we need to highlight the fact that these things have effects for communities that are using the Belize Rivers as a source of water as a source of food…”