We did it again! Our mighty Reef Runner team from San Pedro completed another Ruta Maya Belize river challenge! And, we not only completed it, we came 3rd in the Master’s Category once again! Woo hoo! (It’s a good thing there weren’t four teams in our category!)
Since we had experience from last year, we figured we didn’t need to train – I mean, we’ve already done the Ruta Maya once, how difficult could it be for us to complete it again?
Well, it was tough…..but even though we didn’t train, we still finished in about the same amount of time as last year. How? We had a much lighter canoe. Another difference from last year, we had a total THREE teams from San Pedro! It was great to have such a presence on the river this year from our island home.
Here’s our tale of Ruta Maya weekend 2017!
The race started on Friday, March 3, so we all flew over to the city on Wednesday afternoon March 1.
Here we are loading up our gear:
After the van was loaded up it was time to drive over to San Ignacio.
On the way, we had to stop for a snack and beers at Cheers!
All checked in to the Western Guest House, it was time for dinner and more drinks in San Ignacio – The race was still 2 days away, so why not have a little fun around town?
We stopped in at Tandoor Restaurant for buckets of Belikin and snacks – they had great chicken wings by the way.
The most interesting thing about Tandoor? The tiniest toilet in the world!
I present to you, the world’s tiniest toilet!
That’s right, the toilet bowl was the same height as a Belikin beer bottle!
I had to share my discovery with the guys……and they were so excited, we took pictures.
I think I have a new business idea: Lisa’s Tiny Toilet Tours!
This tiny toilet could be yours, if the price is right!
After the great tiny toilet discovery of 2017, we walked back to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep…….but first, we spotted these gorgeous murals on the wall!
Do you think this is how all of the other teams prepared for the race?
Thursday morning we picked up our cool stickers for our canoes and waited until Arran called us to let us know our rented canoes were ready for their test drive. (Thanks so much Arran from MET for the great canoes this year!)
With stickers in hand and some cold beers (of course) we met Arran at the river.
Our team got the Black Pearl canoe which was perfect because it also had a pirate on the side. (It matched Ronnie’s paddle!)
Here are the paddles all lined up and ready to go.
Our paddles were river ready, but were we???
We applied the stickers and then took the canoes out for a spin. Well, we applied the stickers and had to wait for them to dry before we took the canoes for a spin. Note to self: take out the canoes BEFORE applying the stickers.
No worries. We had time to drink a couple of cold beers and pose with our carnaval hats!
(again, do you think the other teams were doing this the day before the race? My magic 8 ball says “Very Doubtful”.)
We had time to grab dinner (a perfect reason to eat a giant bowl of spaghetti and meatballs!) before the official meeting started at 7:00 (I think it started at 7?).
This year they had the meeting inside which was better than last year because we could hear all of the speakers.
We checked in and got number 14 this year.
After the meeting, we grabbed a couple of beers and were asleep by 10:00 for our early start on race day!
Yes 4:45 in the morning!
It was a hard wake up call since we had a chihuahua and a german shepherd competing in an all-night barking competition.
We grabbed some cups of coffee and the eggs Lisa boiled the night before and we headed to the river. The race on day one starts at 7:00 and they are serious about the start time!
When we arrived at the riverbank it was still dark, but not for long. We like getting to the river early. No crowds and it gives us time to set up our canoes with all of the essentials: 5 hour energy drinks, power bars, beef jerky and speakers.
Music is a must on our boat!
Ahhh, look how energized we were that morning.
At 7:00 the horn blew and we were off!
(We didn’t keep accurate miles on the GPS this year so I’m using our estimates from last year.)
The first day we paddled about 49 miles. The water level was low and there were lots of rapids this year. SHALLOW and ROCKY rapids. About 5 hours into the race we scraped a rock hard and cracked the back….oops.
Lisa got to bail the canoe every 15 minutes for the remaining 2 hours so we would stay afloat.
That day we came in at 7 hours and 36 minutes. Not too shabby.
Here is our captain and navigator Ronnie. He does the best job navigating the rapids. We didn’t tip over once this year!
And our always reliable motor Wayo:
Day one ended at Banana Bank and we stayed at the Banana Bank Lodge.
We had a canoe that needed some serious fiberglass repair – luckily the guys from the other Master’s team “Grumpy Old Men” were there and offered to fiberglass the bottom of the canoe for us. Awesome!
That’s one of the coolest things about this race – the people. Everyone that participates is supportive, helpful and positive!
Here’s our room at Banana Bank:
Oh, I almost forgot the best part about Banana Bank!
Berta (Wayo’s sister who is an incredible masseuse!) was waiting for us. She gave us all the best massages when we got off of the river that day.
They also have a super cool jaguar on the property.
We devoured a delicious dinner of BBQ chicken, rice and beans and carrot cake. After a few more Belikins it was time for bed.
On day two, the race started at 6:30 – so we were awoken again by our alarm super early. Today it rang at 4:30 AM. Banana Bank was kind enough to open their kitchen at 5:00 so we could eat a hearty breakfast before taking on the river for day 2.
Day 2 is the longest day (we logged 47.5 miles last year but the official Ruta Maya site says it 60 miles) but for us, we feel it’s the easiest. Yes, it took 8 hours and 30 minutes to finish, but it just feels faster. There is good water flow and Big Falls at the end.
It’s so much fun and motivating because at different points along the river, people are standing on the shore, yelling and cheering. It’s the best!
Oh, and did I mention we saw countless families of howler monkeys?
And it’s green parrot mating season – so there were flocks and flocks of green parrots flying over all day.
Did you know that they fly in pairs? It was very cool to see.
Here is one of the howler monkey families.
Day 2 ends at Double Head Cabbage.
The sponsors did a great job of getting the crowd fired up when they saw us approaching the finish line. They had everybody on the shore screaming and yelling and cheering for us. It was awesome.
The sponsors did not do a good job with the dock. After paddling over 8 hours we pulled up to a very tall, floating dock that had boards missing.
Do you know which boards were missing?
The ones right next to the water. So we had to stand up in the canoe and pull ourselves out and take giant steps over the missing boards so we didn’t’ fall into the water through the dock. After we were on the dock, the only way to walk to the shore was on a narrow, unstable plank that was balanced between the floating dock and the muddy, slippery hill.
If they would have invested 50 more dollars in this dock it would have actually have been useable. Maybe next year they will have it fixed. We can dream, right?
Here we are after a long day:
The only thing that’s better than one cold beer, is two cold beers!
Last year we camped…..and everyone tells us, “yeah, we all camped. ONCE.”
So this year we stayed at the Black Orchid Resort for 2 nights. Talk about getting some great sleep!
Here is Ronnie in the “warm” tub on the top of our building. You can see the river in the background.
After a dinner of lasagna and red wine it was time for bed. Day 3 was going to be here before we knew it.
Day 3 is a “short” day in terms of miles, but for us it is the longest. No rapids and water that isn’t moving. Sometimes it seemed like we were paddling upstream instead of down river.
As we drove from the hotel to the riverbank, it started pouring rain. And pouring rain. And pouring rain.
This caused mud, mud and more mud on the riverbank. The hill was super slippery and by the time Ronnie and Wayo put the canoe into the river, we were totally covered in mud. There was no dock so we had to get into the canoe from the muddy waters…..the water wasn’t deep – but the mud was.
As Ronnie was standing in the water holding the canoe stable for Lisa to get in, his feet and legs sunk deep into the mud. When he tried to pull his feet out of the mud, one of his shoes got stuck. While reaching around in the mud he found his shoe – so he thought. When he pulled the shoe up he discovered it wasn’t his! A little more searching in the deep mud and he finally found his shoe.
Soaking wet and covered in mud we were now ready to start day 3.
Hey, at least we weren’t hot.
This paddle is really hard for us. So we had our music blasting and we were singing along to the songs and making up funny new lyrics to keep us entertained.
While paddling we spotted a baby croc in the middle of the river.
We turned around to take a closer look and snap a picture.
Ronnie even grabbed it:
After hours of singing, we took a break from the music and started to play games.
“Let’s name bands/singers. But you have to start the name with the last letter of the previous one named”.
This game lasted for hours….but we ran out of bands/musicians and just started naming any famous actors/athletes.
Here is how we sounded going down the river:
You mean Evander???
It was a long day.
But just a short 7 hours and 31 minutes after we started the day, we were done! We paddled across the finish line at Boom Bridge while hundreds (maybe thousands?) of people were cheering us on.
There wasn’t a dock at this takeout, but all of the guys were so great and helpful. They held our canoe and helped us out climb out of it.
Thanks to those who helped us!
Back to Black Orchid we went to celebrate the end of day 3. Wayo’s family was there to help us celebrate. It’s always great to see them!
We had to make the end of day 3 special, so it was time for our party hats again!
We always sleep so great on this night…especially because we don’t have to set our alarms until 6:00 the next morning! We actually got to wake up when it was light outside.
As we drove from the hotel to the Boom Bridge to start the final day of the race, we passed through the party scene from the night before. Besides all of the normal party garbage, there was a car in the ditch. Apparently, it had flipped over during the party. (again, this is why we stay at Black Orchid and don’t camp at the party locations.)
It was a gorgeous sunny, dry morning.
Pretty much all of the other teams do some warm up paddling before the start of the race.
Everyone lined up for the start of day 4!
We love day 4. It’s the final 21 miles of the race. This year it took us 4 hours and 5 minutes to complete. We beat last year by almost 30 minutes!
The first 3 hours is painful….you’re paddling against the high winds and current in the widest part of the river. But as soon as you get to Haulover Bridge it’s smooth sailing. There is a 45 minute paddle through gorgeous mangroves and then the rest of the paddle goes past houses where everyone is hosting a Ruta Maya party.
It’s all cheers and excitement until the finish line. While you’re paddling all you can hear are horns blowing and people shouting, “paddle, paddle paddle”, “You can do it!”, and “You’re almost there!”.
Four days, 180 miles, 27 hours and 44 minutes later we crossed the finish line in Belize City!
There were so many kind and helpful people waiting for us at the take out in Belize City. They helped us climb out of the canoe and even lifted it out of the water for us.
Our 2nd La Ruta Maya River Challenge is complete!
Both of the other teams from San Pedro also finished strong.
Here is Hoping We Finish Again:
Yay for Dee and Greg!
And the San Pedro Buccaneers:
Our canoe was pretty beat up after the race…..we taped it up with duct tape just to try and keep it from leaking.
We celebrated with free pizza and cold Belikins and then walked over to the award ceremony to collect our medals and trophy!
Check out this super cute kid who was cheering for everybody!
We were called on stage to accept the trophy for 3rd place in the Master’s Division!
Here is Ronnie showing off the trophy!
In addition to the trophy, we won 350.00 bze in prize money this year too!!!!
Then we went to the park to relax until our 5:30 flight back to San Pedro. (And yes, more beer and fireball was involved in the relaxing.)
A million thank yous to Wayo’s family for all of the cheers and beers and for Big J and Rueben for all of the support!
And now back home to recover…..
If you thought this blog post was long, it was nothing compared to the race!
Thanks for reading the entire l-o-n-g post!!!! Want more information? Check out our tale from last year’s race here.