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Paddling Against the Current: A Diplomat’s Journey in La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge

Posted: Wednesday, March 20, 2024. 1:35 pm CST.

Photo Credit: Darcy Cruz

By M. Rivero: In the heart of Belize, on what was once a major transit and commercial route where the ancient Maya flourished, you can find the adrenaline-fuelled adventure of La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge – an annual four-day canoe race starting in San Ignacio and ending in Belize City. It’s a race that tests not only physical prowess but also the resilience of the human spirit. And one diplomat took on the challenge for the second year running as the sole female member of the ‘British High and Dry’ team. Kate Reynolds is no stranger to Belize, serving as the British Deputy High Commissioner in Belmopan, Belize for the last two and a half years. As a seasoned diplomat, she has navigated complex policy and negotiations. Still, when she set her sights on La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge, she knew she was embarking on a different kind of journey—one that would test her physical and mental skills to the limit.

The journey down the Belize River is not for the faint-hearted – 170 miles of tough paddling over four days. While boasting beautiful biodiversity, its treacherous rapids, submerged tree trunks and branches, and unpredictable currents demand skills, strength, and focus. Kate definitely faced some challenges – last year, losing a canoe in the rapids 5 days before the race and eye problems after being pecked by an egret (- this really is true!); this year, months of organising fundraising and juggling rosters, so that two canoes could enter and enjoy the experience together, and doing a live TV interview while trying to get the canoe to the bank and clamber back in after flipping- in full view of a big crowd, of course!

Kate’s participation in La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge was about more than just crossing the finish line—it was about teamwork, friendship, and breaking down barriers and stereotypes. Despite being given the nickname ‘Birdwatcher’ by cheeky teammates, she insists she paddled hard – or as hard as someone powered by enthusiasm and humour (rather than youth or talent) could paddle! In a male-dominated sport, Kate, along with the other fabulous women who took on the challenge, showed that gender is no barrier to success. Their courage and determination encourage women everywhere to pursue their passions fearlessly and unapologetically. La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge reminds us that with courage, determination, and a little bit of grit, we can overcome anything that stands in our way. As we celebrate Women’s Month, let us also be inspired to chart our course and make waves in the world we live in. By sharing this story, we honour all the women who paddled and their spirit of adventure and resilience that lies within each of us. So, here’s to the trailblazers, the adventurers, and the dreamers—may we all find the courage to paddle against the current and forge our own path to greatness.

Happy Women’s Month!

 

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