La Ruta Maya.

photo (1)This past week, I made myself leave San Ignacio to see other places in Belize. I traveled by bus. I saw ruins in Orange Walk and crocodiles on the New River; ate stew chicken in Dangriga and hudut in Hopkins. I passed through ghostly developments on the Placencia peninsula—the moats and mansions of American retirees. They’ve chopped down all the mangrove, so if a hurricane comes, all of their castles will just wash into the sea.

But I missed Cayo, even for five days. I came back home early to see the beginning of Ruta Maya, the big annual canoe race that starts on the Macal River. I wore my prettiest fuchsia circle skirt and a blouse with puffed sleeves and staked out a spot on the low bridge at 5:30am. The day got lighter and the bridge got more crowded, and then the horns brayed and dozens of canoes came around the bend from under the Hawksworth Bridge, including the team in front, in saffron yellow, shooting like a bullet, every movement fierce and sharp and perfectly coordinated. As they passed underfoot we rushed to the other side of the bridge to watch them go. And then they were gone around the next bend.

In minutes the entire crowd on the bank had loaded into trucks to speed to the next viewing location. I hadn’t secured a place with anyone, so for me, sadly, they were just gone.

I sat on the bridge looking towards the bend around which they’d all vanished. Until I was the only one sitting there.

A cameraman came along and said, “Can I take a shot of you? You look very nice.”

I wiped my tears away and said sure.

When he was done, I said, as if to explain, “I just don’t want to leave.”

“You can always come back,” he said.

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