What do all of these things have in common?
Auto repair, meat pies, Guinness, canoe accidents, metal shops, street meat, markets, new friends, jalapeno margaritas, multiple injuries, breakfast burritos, Patrick Warrior, cookies, pizza, Belikin, roulette, penny slots and paddling…….
All of these (and much, much more!) were part of our 3 day “training” weekend in Cayo to prepare for La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge!
Whatt is the La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge you ask? It’s a 4 day canoe race that starts in San Ignacio, Belize and ends in Belize city…how many miles? Oh, just 180 miles. But it’s down river.
What could go wrong?
We have our team members set: Ronnie, Lisa and Wayo. (we originally had 2 girls on our team but after reading more about the race we decided that we needed two men instead).
Our team name? Wayo’s Reef Runners
We hopped on the 9:00 flight from San Pedro over to Belize City. Check out our excitement to start the training weekend!
When we arrived at the airport in Belize City we had time for a quick snack before our driver (and now friend) Jay picked us up. We opted for water but could have gotten “Jump Up Coffee”….maybe next time!
All fueled up we started the 1 1/2 ride over to San Ignacio where the “official” training was to take place.
On our way to Hattieville we stopped in Burrell Boom Village at Henderson Bank to check out the campground for one of the nights.
They were building these structures. It’s where the food vendors will be located during the race.
We didn’t know this but, at least at Henderson Bank, there is going to be a band and a beer tent and lots of food vendors…..pretty fun!
We left Burrell Boom and headed west to San Ignacio – but we were delayed……
By a little auto repair. The hose clamp fell off one of the hoses so we had to stop at the Everyday Supermarket in Hattieville….luckily they carried hose clamps!
Good thing it was Friday and not Sunday because the “Everyday” Supermarket is CLOSED on Sundays….hmmmmmmm
With the new hose clamp in hand all we needed to do was repair the car….but we had no tools. Luckily a nice guy named Andrew was buying meat pies and he happened to have 2 tools in his car….and surprise, surprise! One of them was the exact tool we needed!
Andrew not only let us borrow his tool, but he hopped on top of the engine and repaired the car for us….such a nice guy!
It’s a good thing we needed the repair because just as we were getting ready to leave, Violet came out of our her house selling meat pies! Only $1.00 bze each…so we bought all of them that she had. Delicious!
We were on the road again!
Next stop – San Ignacio!
But first…..a stop in Tea Kettle at a metal fabrication shop. That’s where our loaner canoe was located and we had to pick it up.
That’s right, these very, very generous men said we could use their canoe for the race. The one they designed and custom built for the race. It was a very special canoe!
Here’s our canoe!
It was the most beautiful canoe…hand crafted out of cedar….a very, very, very thin cedar covered with a very thin coating of fiberglass.
Super light and race ready!
They even had carbon fiber paddles that they are letting us use.
This was a really nice canoe……
They know we don’t have any experience canoeing, right?
Wayo, Ronnie and Jay loaded up the canoe and the paddles and we were on our way to the river to try it out!
We arrived in San Ignacio and were hungry. Time to fuel up for our trial paddle in our race can.
We had lunch at Han-nah’s. Bertha joined us and we met a new friend too!
Now we were ready to hit the water!
But first…..we checked into our hotel and changed…..
We stayed at the Log Cab-Inn which was a very nice property!
Ok – we are fed, hydrated and changed…and it’s only 4:00 in the afternoon……
Time to hit the river for some training!
We hopped into the canoe and wow – it was pretty unstable. It was like a race car….and we are definitely NOT experienced “race car drivers”. But, we paddled up river and after a few minutes were able to keep it fairly straight.
This canoe was fast!
We headed down river to look at the low water bridge since that is one of the obstacles we need to pass during the race…..but…..they had opened the dam and the river was high and the water was rushing…….and in or attempt to look at the bridge…..
We crashed into the bridge!
That’s right, we crashed into the bridge and rolled the canoe and all of us fell in the water.
Wayo even lost his shades!
But that wasn’t the worst part……..we broke the canoe!
That’s right people….we actually put a hole in the canoe.
We had the canoe in our possession for less than 4 hours….and in the river for less than one hour and we destroyed it.
With our heads hung low we returned the canoe to it’s owner.
What’s worse than destroying a $4,000 canoe? Getting made fun of by a man with a heavy Irish accent:
“You people come out from San Pedro and you destroy a $4,000 canoe on your first go?”
Yup – that’s us….
They assured us that it was no problem and that it could be repaired.
Who gives a Ferrari to a bunch of children?
Since day one of training went so well we decided to celebrate with some drinks at the Bamboo Bar.
One of the funnest parts of the night was running into Patrick Warrior. He was our guide when we went into the ATM cave back in 2007! So great seeing him again and meeting his wife.
We left Bamboo to continue our “training” – first we dined on street meat and then we went into the Casino. Ronnie and Wayo played roulette and Lisa played the penny slots.
That’s right – Lisa won 2 cents! (but that’s 4 cents Belize!!)
Day one of our race training was either a complete success or a complete failure……
Day Two of Training – We had 2 goals for the morning:
- Register for the race
- Find another canoe
But first…..we needed breakfast….
We grabbed some chicken burritos.
And then ran a couple of errands in the market.
Wayo found a new pair of shades.
We then drove out to scout out another part of the river and Lisa saw a Keel Billed Toucan fly by…..that’s the national bird of Belize!
That has to be a good sign, right?
Somehow it had become noon and we still hadn’t “accomplished” the two main tasks for the day – or paddle down the river. But that’s ok, we still had 6 hours of sunlight left in the day.
A friend of Wayo’s named Tony rents canoes and he had ONE canoe available for us to use that day to train with.
Perfect…we will take it.
Day Two – Canoe Two
This canoe was made of teak wood and was old and beat up. It was used in a previous Ruta Maya race several years ago.
This canoe was perfect for us – we couldn’t break it!
Although Wayo did get stabbed by the shard of wood sticking out of the front of it.
(by the way that’s Cuchillo in the picture with Wayo – it’s one of his brothers. He hung out with us for the day)
Ok – we were ready for a training paddle!
To the river we go…..
(see the bridge in the background? That’s the one we crashed into the day before)
We took the canoe for a quick spin just to be sure it floated before we went on our long journey. But, it leaked. It had a nice crack down the middle of the bottom that was “repaired”.
Fortunately it didn’t leak too much and this was the only canoe we had available….so we made some cups out of water bottles, loaded into the canoe and headed on our training journey.
We paddled from San Ignacio to Spanish Lookout. We are guessing we went between 15 and 20 miles and it took us about 2 1/2 hours.
Such beautiful scenery….
We even saw 3 river otters playing in the rapids!
We were listening to music and paddling and having a great time.
We all felt great and confident that we will finish the race!
When we arrived at Spanish Lookout we had to wait for the ferry to cross.
Bertha was there waiting to pick us up.
Canoe back on the roof……we didn’t crash!
To celebrate we stopped at the Midas Resort for one beer…..
And of course one beer actually means 3 beers.
The sun was setting and we still hadn’t registered for the race or reserved a canoe that we could use for the race.
Two critical parts, don’t you think?
We stopped at Yoli’s Pizza to pick up the registration form and went back to the hotel to shower and change.
By 8:00 (one hour before Yoli’s closed) we turned in our registration form and paid.
We are now officially registered for La Ruta Maya!
Day two was a complete success! We trained and registered for the race.
Now all that’s left to do is find and reserve a canoe for the actual race.
Day 3 – Canoe 3
All we had on the “to do list” was secure a canoe for the race.
Thankfully Wayo knows Tony (the “canoe guy”) and he said we should stop by to check out his canoes because he had some we could rent for the race.
We drove to the river (aka the site of the day one canoe accident), found Tony and checked out the canoes.
Wayo and Ronnie picked out the canoe we wanted to use for the race and we paid our deposit.
It wasn’t even noon yet and we had already accomplished our goal for the day!
Time to head back to the city and fly home.
We are Ruta Maya Race Ready!!!!!
(or are we? We may not win, but based on our training weekend it’s going to be a fun adventure!)