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On Tuesday we had the privilege of learning about the economics of a small business as well as having the experience of a lifetime. We spent about 5 hours white water rafting in class 4 rapids on the Jondachi and Hollin Rivers in Tena, Ecuador. River People, owned by Tim Dent, has been named as one of the top 10 rafting trips worldwide because of its spectacular canyon views. For many of us, myself included, this was our first time rafting. The experience itself far outweighed my wildest expectations. The 6 people in my raft, plus our guide Pancho, quickly developed a rhythm. However, this rhythm was disrupted near the end of the trip as we passed through the most challenging rapid nicknamed “The Waffle Maker.” Everything was seemingly going smooth, but in the next instant I found myself trapped underneath our capsized raft. At first I panicked, but thanks to the safety training we received, I was easily able to find my way out from underneath the raft. Thankfully, everyone on my raft made it out alive. It was quite an experience!
Tim talked to us about some of the difficulties of owning a small business in Ecuador. Safety gear such as helmets and life jackets are considered to be luxury items in Ecuador. As a result, a 100% tax is placed on them. He said something as simple as a life jacket costs close to $300 to obtain. Tim pays his guides far above the average daily wage amongst Ecuadorians. As a result, he has a group of well trained guides who take their jobs seriously. Because of his good track record of safety and enjoyable experiences, Tim has not had to significantly lower his prices for rafting trips in order to compete with other companies. If you have not experienced white water rafting, I would highly recommend doing so in the future.