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Seventeeth Annual Belikin La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge Print E-mail
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Thursday, 13 March 2014 00:00

The Belize Bank Bulldogs have come out as victors, with their cumulative points, at the end of the Seventeenth Annual Belikin La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge, which ended just before mid-day on Monday of this week at the Belcan Bridge in Belize City.  For the third consecutive year the Belize Bank Bulldogs have come in first place and this year made the four day journey in 17 hours, twenty five minutes and thirteen seconds. Coming in second with just a few minutes in extra time in the race was the National Institute of Culture and History’s NICH team and coming in third was the BTL Cobb’s Arm.

The Seventeenth Annual Belikin La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge commenced in earnest last Friday at 7:00 am from under San Ignacio Town’s historic suspension bridge, the Hawksworth Bridge. Leaving in its wake furious ripples along the Banks of the Macal River, the 61 registered teams of paddlers in canoes sought to win portions of the $21,000.00 worth of cash prizes along their short trip down the Macal River and then aimed to do the same along the Belize Old River.

For this year there were seven categories to the race and they are as follows: Male, Female, Mixed, Masters, Intramural, Pleasure and Family. All these categories have the same opportunity to win the big prize; however the male category had the dominating teams.

The first challenge for the paddlers was the 46 mile water course from San Ignacio to Banana Bank last Friday, and then the grueling 60 miles that needed to be covered from Banana Bank to Double Head Cabbage the following day on Saturday. This was followed by the 36 miles water stretch that was traversed from Double Head Cabbage to Burrel Boom on Sunday with the Belize Bank Bulldogs leading just like in the first and second stage. In the fourth stage of the race and after 25 miles of paddling from Burrell Boom, the Westract team was the first to reach the Belcan Bridge in Belize City, followed by the Belize Bank Bulldogs.

In 1998, the La Ruta Maya River Challenge was seen as an opportunity to launch Big H Products around an event. It was also seen as an opportunity that had the components of culture, history and the environment intertwined. Today, the difficult course of paddling down the 175 miles of the Belize Old River has added entrepreneurial aspects to the race such as for food, music and canoe making.

The Belikin La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge would not have been possible without the support of corporate sponsorship such as the Platinum Sponsor, the Belize Brewing Company. Other major sponsors to the race were Lighhouse Lager, SMART, BDARP Rescue Team and the Belize Defense Force. Environmental clubs from Galen and the University of Belize as well as the Boy Scouts came out to pick up the refuse that was left along the river banks. Members of the Belize Police Force were on duty at the various points along the race.

The Macal and Belize Old River have had a great historical significance to the development of the Cayo and Belize Districts. (While the Macal River joins the Mopan River at ‘Branch Mouth’ to form the Belize Old River, the Macal River has its origins in the Chiquibul Area from watersheds that have a plentiful supply of broadleaf forests.) As early as 1905, the first successful trip was made along the Belize Old River from Belize City to the area now known as San Ignacio Town. At that time the only access to El Cayo was via steam boats or Cayo boats. It took some four days to travel from El Cayo to Belize City. It was customary for the boats to bring dried goods and canned foods from Belize City and take back fresh bananas, fruits, vegetables and ‘bush meat’ on their return trip.

The Belize Old River, much traversed by the current La Ruta Maya paddlers, also served as a major trading route for several Maya Centers such as Xunantunich, El Pilar, Cahal Pech and Altun Ha.

The final day of the Belikin La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge came just in time for Monday’s holiday observance of Belize’s greatest benefactor, Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss.