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Mar 3, 2023

Who Will Win La Ruta Maya in 2023? Guava Limb Snagged Day 1

The twenty-sixth running of the Belikin La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge kicked off this morning in the twin towns of Santa Elena-San Ignacio. This year’s event has fifty-seven teams of paddlers racing the one-hundred-and-eighty-mile journey to Belize City over the next four days. As is the tradition, the race ends at the Belcan Bridge in Belize City on Monday. But how has the race advanced over the years and how can it further promote Belize’s tourism product? News Five’s Marion Ali reports. 


Marion Ali, Reporting

The burst of energy that is seen each year when the horn is blown at seven a.m., at the historic Hawkesworth Bridge in San Ignacio punctuated much of today on the Macal River between Santa Elena and Banana Bank. It was the scene where fifty-seven teams of paddlers tried from day one in the Belikin La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge to set the pace, earn respect and create time difference among themselves. Deputy British High Commissioner to Belize, Kate Reynolds was paddling in the Mixed Category, along with two other members of her mission to Belize on the team British High and Dry.


Kate Reynolds

Kate Reynolds, Deputy British High Commissioner to Belize

“I saw it last year and I thought it looked really, really good, so, yeah, so we wanted to enter. So we’ve been training hard, we’ve been training since, yeah, every weekend. So we’ve been working in the week and then coming out weekends, and then a couple of really early mornings as well. Some people will win prizes. I have a funny feeling we might not win a prize, which is fine. We just want to finish and it’s a great thing. And the whole premise behind the whole thing about looking after the environment and picking up litter and all that is very good.”


Like the Deputy High Commissioner, Olivia DeMaggio and her Team SOLT from Benque were also not looking for any prizes and were just out there for the fun and experience.


Olivia DeMaggio

Olivia DeMaggio, Team SOLT

“We put in some practice. We put in some good hard practice. Just some though.”

Marion Ali

“All right. What do you think about the river? Is it, going to work in your favor?”


Olivia DeMaggio

“Yeah, this river is, is calling our name, it’s ready for us. It’s, it, it was, it was made for, for our team. I think we’ll do pretty good. I think we’ll get in the top three.”


The guys who showed they were serious about earning bragging rights today are a group of teens who make up Team Guava Limb. They out-gunned last year’s champs, Team PACT to gain attention on day one when they paddled in first at Banana Bank. Their team Captain is nineteen-year-old Javier Guardado.


Javier Guardado

Javier Guardado, Captain, Guava Limb Team

“We come with a mentality to come in first. It’s all in your mind.”



“And you’re hoping for the big win at the end of the race?”


Javier Guardado

“Well, sure.”


Marion Ali

“Okay. So what was the determining factor for you guys on this first leg? I understand it’s most challenging.”


Javier Guardado

“Yes. Well, I think we have the advantage cuz we are the lightest team. Okay. And well we train very hard and I think train the training talks a lot at the end.”


For event organizer, Orlando Harrison, improving the race is always on the agenda.


Orlando Harrison

Orlando Harrison, Organizer, Belikin La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge

“For this year, we have improved the safety and rescue on the river. We have tried to make more teams register. We had an increase this year from last year. So we we’re, we’re pretty much, um, been planning this for, for almost six, seven months.”


Marion Ali

“Twenty-six years into it, do you still have like last minute hiccups and what would those be?”


Orlando Harrison

“Not necessarily hiccups because I think by starting to plan from, from early, we are able to, to kind of adapt the eyes and, and, and the tease. And so we are pretty much you know what we are, uh, meeting.”


For those in tourism, this event can sell Belize even more as a tourism destination. B.T.B’s Director of Industry Development, Josue Carballo explained.


Josue Carballo

Josue Carballo, Director of Industry Development

“We believe the race is at such maturity stage that it can definitely step up to that. Not only just a national but the international scene in, when it comes to sports and, and festival tourism. It is big on, on origin in tourism right now to promote, to promote it. Sports tourism, um, brings teams together. It brings their supporting cast. It brings visitors to, to actually support that nuh. We have seen a couple of, of, um, foreign nationals that, that have, um, have registered in the race. We, we hope that together we can work to make that be increased. But, but more so as well beyond the, the supporting aspect of it nuh, when you start to look at the different stops that are, in between the, the races, there’s a rich diversity of culture that we can see in these villages that, that are stops when it comes to the music, the dances, the cuisine. So the Ruta Maya is definitely an integral part of the tourism product which we can enhance and grow.”


Marion Ali for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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