Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Look, Taste, + Feel of Buenos Aires, Argentina

a fountain in a Palermo park
Buenos Aires, with her gigantic open green spaces and beautiful architecture, reminds one more of a European capital than any South American city; most of which are best viewed by the blind.

The Palermo area contains vast, well kept parks featuring small lakes, towering sculptures, rose gardens, huge old trees, and as much space as you dream of for outdoor dance classes, rollerblading, running, and cycling alike.
The nearby Japanese gardens, zoo, and casino are additions denizens of Baires consider themselves fortunate to have. (well maybe not the casino)
I pedal a bicycle past the parks and embassies down Avenida del Libertador, a street as wide as most oceans but taking longer to cross.
the beautiful parks of Palermo

obelisk, Buenos Aires (BA)
I stop and gaze obligatorily at the Obelisk, an Argentinian national monument, whose phallic shape was once covered by a giant pink condom to commemorate World AIDS day in 2005.

the National Theater- architecture reminds me of the Swedish Royal palace
Casa Rosado

The buildings in the city's center are quite pleasing to the eye, and smaller parks continue to populate the avenues as I veer off to search for Casa Rosado, the executive mansion and office of the President of Argentina.
Nearby, tourists crowd around to watch the changing of the guard, and veterans stage a small rally so that their contributions (and minimal monthly benefits) are not forgotten.
changing of the guard

monuments + nice architecture of Buenos Aires

I ride through a green light, a car screeches it's brakes to a halting stop, nearly plowing into me, in an what was no doubt an effort to help the Portenyos (denizens of Baires) keep their long-held crown as the world's most asshole drivers. Rest assured they're in no danger of losing their grip on the title any time soon. 

Prices in Argentina, and specifically Buenos Aires, are far higher than the rest of South America. Aside of rent, the city is almost on par with Los Angeles. Most people here struggle to make ends meet, and with universally corrupt politicians and high inflation, it's no wonder there is so much political unrest. No one, not even the wealthy, have any faith in the system. 
a gay restaurant in San Telmo . What gave it away Rich?
The one uniting factor is soccer, the nation's passion. 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, "futbol" plays on TV. If not a game from Argentina, then Europe, or even Asia. Cafes and restaurants caught showing something else instantly lose their business licenses.
the streets of San Telmo
I stop by an outdoor market in San Telmo, it goes for many blocks, vendors and artisans hawk their wares hoping to attract, well, tourists like me. I become entranced with a sculpture of a tree branch, a hummingbird and butterfly adorning the wooden flowers. I purchase the exquisite piece for $100, without a word's negotiation.

The streets are alive, from outdoor asado (barbecue) restaurants which are of excellent value for the carnivores here, to outdoor dancing, both tango and rave.
No matter how dark or late it might seem, the truth is, it's still early. Argentinians normally start their weekends with a dinner at 10 or 11 PM and regularly stay out until dawn. They think I'm kidding when I tell them the last movies of the day start playing at 8 PM in Santa Barbara.
"Movies start at 1:30 AM here all the time," comes back the retort ... Good thing high quality coffee is sold on every corner.

A taste of Argentine culture- the streets of Buenos Aires

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Soccer- the Religion of Argentina; the Pope's Team- Club Atletico San Lorenzo de Almagro

Argentina is a pretty permissive society. You can trade spouses, convert to a new religion, go Caitlin Jenner with your sexual orientation, even join ISIS and all of Buenos Aires will still welcome you into their homes with open arms. 
But dare betray your fellow fans by switching allegiances to another soccer team and you will be burned at the stake as a heretic. They take place in a central city plaza- five last year. 

Needless to say I was excited to take part in the passion of South America (I brought a book of matches) and with an invite from my friend Bebeto, I'm quickly being whisked towards the stadium of Club Atletico San Lorenzo which is located in one of the worst slums of Baires, an area annexed by immigrants from South America's poorest countries (Bolivia, Peru, and Paraguay.)
"Villa"- Argentinian word for "slum," near San Lorenzo stadium. Newer cars are of fans 

Their illegally built shanty towns are unlikely to be featured in the next issue of Architectural Digest. On game day, the presence of law enforcement is required to safely park and navigate the neighborhood. The area referred to as "1-11-14," on the opposite side of the stadium, police deem too dangerous to enter themselves.

We walk to the nearby athletic fields for the pre-game asado- Argentinian barbecue, similar to American tailgating. Everyone here has known each other for years, often decades, lifelong fans. Of course they're lifelong fans, there really isn't another viable option; you think I was kidding about what they do to traitors?
How much pride do soccer fans take in their allegiances? Bebeto's father has paid a $200 yearly fee for his youngest son's membership card since birth, and the boy at age 3 is still not old enough to safely attend games.
Wait? It's just a sporting event. What's the risk in bringing a toddler? hahahahahaha ... Let me fill you in.
  • Opposing teams have been pepper sprayed from the stands. 
  • There used to be a designated section of the stadium for rival fans, but they often found ways to "bleed" into the home team crowd, resulting in huge brawls which filled the local hospitals. Today opposing fans have been Banned from attending each other's games nationwide ... It was ultimately cheaper to give up those ticket sales. 
  • Avalanches- literally fans celebrating a goal by doing a sort of vertical "wave" falling onto people in the row in front of them, a game of vertically plunging human dominos has created a morbid tradition- when the home team scores, its fans die. 
  • There is a real home-field advantage as referees who make a call the fanatics find disagreeable are sometimes killed. They'll think twice before awarding a penalty kick to the visitors. (True Fact: Soccer refs in South America are ineligible to purchase life insurance policies.)
So you'll forgive Bebeto's father for merely bringing the likeness of his son via his membership card photo to the game.
you can watch an avalanche (seconds 7-16 only)

But back to the asado; multiple chorizo (sausage) sandwiches are fired from a canon into my open hand. Mountains of meat here, nearly impossible to be a vegetarian in Argentina. The fans are friendly and welcoming, which be might partly due to the the free flowing Fernette (alcohol) and Coca-Cola mixed-drink, arriving via shared, giant plastic cups.
One of the drunken leaders (in both senses) winks at me, pours a generous amount of extra Fernette into the make-shift glass, stirring its contents with his what could politely be described as a "grimy"finger, then hands me the cup ... I bring it to my lips, pretending to take a sip not only in an effort to maintain rapport, but also to avoid catching typhoid.
Every few minutes the fans break out into impromptu, minute long cheers for their beloved team, a team they will support until they die.
the pre-game asado- FC San Lorenzo

San Lorenzo stadium
Eventually game time arrives, and people pour into the stadium under police super-vision. There are different sections, the youth section, where the fans jump up and down, vociferously cheering the entire game. Once you save enough money you can upgrade your tickets to our section where you must merely stand until the final whistle blows.
Our opponents are the Hurricanes, a team which was recently upgraded from the inferior "B" division, to Argentina's premier league. During warm-ups good natured and supportive fans of FC San Lorenzo remind the opposition of their humble beginnings, derisively chanting "Vos sos de la B! Vos sos de la B! Vos sos de la B!" (you are from the B!)
watch/ listen to fans taunting the visiting team- "Vos sos de la B!"

San Lorenzo stadium
Of course, what's the point in going to a sporting event without betting on it? Being the genius I am, a foolproof plan is at hand. You see, FC San Lorenzo is The Pope's team, having grown up in the area he's a lifelong fan; the head of Catholic Church is not exempt from the fate of a heretic.
My thinking- how is it possible to lose when God is on your side? As a man of action, I immediately bet the budget allotted for my trip.
All I can say is, I doubled my money to $200! Not that I should have won, frankly the "B" team outplayed San Lorenzo, but their shots barely missed their mark and twice caromed off the posts (God's work,) and San Lorenzo capitalized on one its few opportunities, and on this rare occurrence in an otherwise boring sport, the entire stadium erupted in a CraZy celebration. 
watch the fans' passion for the game, plus game highlights

And what a great time was had experiencing what I consider a cultural event singular to this area of the world. Say what you want about South America, with it's corrupt politicians, high inflation, uncertainty, and spouses with often wandering eyes, I will tell you true and monogamous love exists here; and its between fans and their soccer team.
Go San Lorenzo! Fan for life!
Bebeto, Martina, me- great time

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Argentina's #1 Host, AirBnb (in Bariloche)- Why You Should Use AirBnb

So most travelers often roll their eyes looking at hotel prices online, wishing they could save some of that money to spend on fun vacation activities. And we sit in front of our computers/ phones, debating budgets, and likely we've heard of AirBnb, and wonder if we should try it out, but maybe it seems like a hassle or perhaps we're just scared by the prospect of trying something new.

As a frequent traveler, let me explain why it's a no brainer for me, by relating to you my experience in Bariloche, Argentina.

I look at hotel prices online, and although there are some cheaper options, most decent places are $100 and up. Although the simplicity of a hotel can be appealing, whenever I consider that option, I realize that the one thing that I'm immediately going to be missing out on is the personal touch I receive from the various AirBnb hosts I've had.

So, comparing online, I find an AirBnb that looks very promising, my host's profile stating he's a nature lover and mountaineer. Knowing our similar interests, intuitively I imagine I'm going to get great recommendations on how to spend my time in the area. Plus, at the moment it's $33 a night ($44 on weekends) for an entire two story, two bedroom house which is a part of the duplex. Waaaayyyy more space than a hotel room, and the host has great reviews, so I book the place.
this is the view from atop the mountain the first ski-lift my host took me to
I arrive, with my host Adrian waiting outside on the street for me. He waves as my taxi drives by, we pull over.  His warmth is immediately palpable. We ascend a few stairs, to the duplex he and his wife own.
My name is on a welcome sign atop the table, which I find a warm, nice touch. After an early morning flight, and the usual rigmarole of travel, I'm hungry and thirsty. Ice water and a homemade plum pie sits beside the sign.
After giving me some time to decompress, he comes and makes suggestions as to where I should go for the afternoon as I definitely have enough daylight to go somewhere to enjoy my beautiful surroundings.
Lo and behold I need a bus card to get around. Guess what, my hosts have graviously supplied me one with 30 pesos on it, enough for a few rides. Adrain walks me to the bus station, and gets on the bus with me, making sure I get off at the right stop, then he literally guides me a kilometer down the road to the ski-lift, pointing out various points of local interest.
He leaves me to enjoy the scenery on my own, and checks on me via WhatsApp, to make sure I've returned home safely.
The next day he takes me on a hike, spending most of the of the afternoon with me. We go up the Catedral ski-lift, the mountain enveloped in snow. We climb up past a warning sign to the top of the ridge, witnessing a spectacular view I wouldn't have know otherwise existed if not for my host. He films me, as I deliver a message of seizing the day, and fulfilling our dreams without delay.
video from the hike and view which Adrian took me on

The next day, he spends hours arranging a hike for me, arranging for a fellow guide to take me up famed Mount Tronador. When he says he would have come with me if he had the time, I completely believe him. He loans me gloves, a warm hat, a sleeping bag, a backpack, and not surprisingly far more to insure a safe and great trip up the mountain.
another view 
When I return, I stay a couple more days with my hosts.
Adrian, of course continued to go out of his way to insure I had the best time possible. It's the personal touch that most AirBnb hosts (who are often travelers as well) attempt to make for their guests, as they understand that saving you time by and allowing you to access their local tie-ins (friends to meet, restaurant recommendations, short-cuts, hidden gems etc.) is key, not only for you, but for them and their reviews which in turn gets them recurring business. It truly is a virtuous loop.
Finally after 7 days of exploring beautiful Patagonia (originally I thought only 3 days would I stay) it as time to go.
Adrian shared the cab with me into town, and as the bus was leaving, and I didn't have time to go to the ATM, he pulled a 100 pesos out of his pocket and handed it to me to make sure I'd have some spending money before I got to Chile. (it sounds crazy, but it's a 100% true)

Look, Adrian and his wife were Beyond Generous with their time and resources. I have never had an experience which quite matched it, but most AirBnb hosts go out of their way to insure you have fabulous time.  I really don't know how much more I would recommend AirBnb, it's both a superior overall experience to a hotel, and far cheaper.
And if you luck out and have hosts as incredible as Adrian and his wife, then be absolutely grateful that a service like AirBnb exists, which makes it possible to meet such awesome people.
Happy travels!

If you want to book with Adrian and his wife and are already a member of AirBnb and are headed to Bariloche Book with Adrian here

If you are new to AirBnb click here to sign-up and receive a free $20 travel credit towards your first stay

can Patagonia get any prettier? 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Videos of the Amazon Rainforest- Fauna, Danger + Parrots Speaking Spanish

For more details + videos on the Amazon Jungle in Peru
huge trees and vines of the Amazon

video: The Cinchona Tree- nature's cure for malaria

            videoFauna + Insect life in the Peruvian Amazon (Tombopata Reserve) 5+ minutes but super interesting

the base of the huge, hard wood, iron tree

                                                videoCrossing a very tenuous Log Bridge in the Amazon Jungle

And finally a fun one, whoever uses the term "bird brain" in a derogatory manner has never met Polly, who speaks fluent Spanish. Watch him hollering "Hola" hello, a few times below :)
Video: Polly the parrot speaks fluent Spanish! "Hola"

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Macaw Clay Lick of the Tombopato Reserve, Peruvian Amazon

the riverbank of the Tombopato
the riverbank of the Tombopato
We wake at 4 AM, using torches to navigate our way to the riverbank and onto the boat, immediately embarking on our journey upstream to the heart of the Tombopato Reserve and its highlight, the macaw claylick.
It's pitch dark, save the starry Amazonian sky. Our guide scans the banks with a high beam of light, in hopes of catching the red glow reflected back by the animals of the jungle. A pair of capybaras are spotted, though it's too dark to appreciate their form as they quickly hide, submerging themselves beneath the murky water.

video: the Tombopato River, just after sunrise

The sun rises sometime after 5 AM, soon after we veer away down a maze of smaller tributaries before we finally dock on a muddy bank. I step out of the boat, my boots sinking deep into what's nearly quicksand. It takes great effort to haul myself up the bank.
video: this is the riverbank I speak of above, and walk to the clay lick 
through the drenched pathways of the jungle

macaws arriving @ Tombopato macaw claylick
The Tombopato Reserve macaw clay-lick (on the right) from afar as the birds arrive
blue headed parrot
blue headed parrot- can you spot it with
what is otherwise perfect camoflauge

A five minute walk through the water laden ground, and we emerge at the observation area of the clay-lick. The dawn air is thick with mist and voracious mosquitoes which my arms windmill away, swatting a few in the process. 
So as not to disturb the shy birds, the observation point is situated in excess of 100 meters from the nutrient rich cliff, separated by a small river and swampy ground on the other side. It doesn't exactly lend itself to good viewing via the naked eye, so in turn we set up a telescope where we can get an eagle eye's view of the show.

Right on schedule at 6 AM the first wave of birds rolls through, in this case green and blue headed parrots with a few of the larger macaws intermixed.
It's rather fascinating to watch bird behavior mirror that of humans. When the parrots first arrive, they sit in the trees above the clay-lick, surveying, cautious, wary of predators, specifically their eternal nemesis, the Harpy Eagle. ...
Then one brave bird ventures down and begins to pick at the clay. Thirty seconds later another one joins, and following the psychological principle of "social proof" (defined by the belief that what everyone else is doing must be right/ safe) the rest of the birds follow suit and join.
green parrots + scarlett macaws @ Tombopato macaw claylick
green parrots + a few macaws- first feeders

The birds continue to feed until they've either had their fill, or are frightened away by a predator. When it's the latter, they fly away in unison, squawking the entire flight.
Some of you might ask, and rightfully so, I thought parrots ate fruit? Well yes, they do, and the clay lick offers the birds minerals which detoxify their body. (holistic healers rejoice)
Waves of parrots descend upon the clay-lick, cautiously nibbling, then leaving, making way for a new groups of feeders.
While mixed, most waves contain a predominant number of birds from a single species, today ranging from the early feeders- blue headed and green parrots, which give way to red and green macaws, then blue and gold, then finally followed by the scarlet macaws who close out the diner.
The birds nip and dig into the nutrient rich cliff until 10 AM. We're there for a full stimulating and awe inspiring four hours.
This was by far the highlight of the time I spent in the Amazon Jungle, and not to be missed. Absolutely fascinating and intoxicating.

by far the best video I took. It starts with a look at the claylick from afar, then jumps to the view of the feeding macaws through the telescopic lens, then at around the 1:35 mark, the birds get scared and fly away in unison, squawking the whole time.  

 birds feeding on the clay-lick at 4x zoom
birds feeding on the clay-lick at 4x zoom- you can see other in the trees (from well over 100 meters away)
macaws @ Tombopato macaw claylick
blue + gold with scarlett macaws

video: watch macaws gingerly descend on clay-lick
blue + gold macaw with scarlett macaws in trees
blue + gold macaw with scarlett macaws in trees
blue + gold, scarlett macaws @ Tombopato macaw claylick
feeding time

scarlett macaws @ Tombopato macaw claylick
scarlet macaws @ Tombopato clay-lick
macaws @ clay-lick Tombopato Reserve
macaws @ clay-lick Tombopato Reserve
macaws @ clay-lick Tombopato Reserve
such beautiful birds (red + green intermixed with scarlet macaws
 macaws @ clay-lick Tombopato Reserve, Perumacaws @ clay-lick Tombopato Reservefeeding macaws @ clay-lick Tombopato Reserve

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Penetrating the Amazon Jungle- exploring the Rainforest

giant tree- Tombopato Reserve, Peru

First off, let me acknowledge that there are safer, far more comfortable places to spend a few days than the Peruvian Amazon Jungle.
During the early afternoon the temperature and humidity makes walking around an uninvited chore. If you choose to seek refuge in the shade of the tall trees, there are tons of friendly little vampiric mosquitoes wishing to give you gentle hug, take a blood sample, and, if you're really lucky, give you the gift of malaria (or dengue, yellow fever, or uta, depending of where the reels of the slot machine lands.)
Hiking around is always a treacherous proposition, with dangers ranging from stinging plants and insects such as wasps and large "bullet ants" (so named because if they bite it feels as though you've been struck by gunfire,) to well camouflaged poisonous snakes and spiders who will kill you with a single bite. The serpents are first of two reasons you must wear high rubber boots in the forest; the other being the soft, nearly quicksand like mud you'll invariably have to muck your way through.
video: slopping through the Amazon mud

The forest can be thick, with cobwebs, vines, prickly thorns, and branches close to the ground making a machete, or "lightsaber of the jungle" as I call it, an absolute necessity.
video: the machete- lightsaber of the rainforest in action

videodeadly spiders of the jungle

Though the forest is thick, and the shade near constant, once in awhile there is a break in the forest where one of the larger trees has fallen. It's a little like a newly deceased drug lord, it becomes a race for seedlings/ junior associates to take over the spot in the canopy, the winner expressing his dominance by drowning out its photosynthetic competitors with darkness.
video: the race for the sun- canopy of the Amazon

giant tree- Tombopato Reserve, Peru
the huge base of a 200 year old Amazonian tree
The jungle contains an ecosystem of great beauty that's been in tact for millennia. Billions of oxygen producing, life enhancing trees, some giant and ancient which shelter everything from Tarzan like vines to nests for thousands of species of birds who spread seeds from the fruit produced. There are plant species with still unknown cures for disease, tribes of Indians who've never made contact with the West, anti-biotic producing leaf cutter ants, and Howler Monkeys which can be heard from two kilometers away.
Being here isn't easy, but I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity and the adventure.
devil lips flower - Tombopato Reserve, Peru
devil lips flower

vine swinging - Tombopato Reserve, Peru
video: climbing a thick vine (photo of struggle on right)

"erotic tower" of the rainforest
"erotic tower" of the rainforest

the forest on the banks of the Tombopato River
the forest on the banks of the Tombopato River

Wildlife of the Peruvian Amazon- Jaguars + Capybaras

Okay, if you meet anyone who's going to one of the rare places left in the world still barely touched by the hand of man, where nature still operates as it has for millennia, we're not only going there for the flora and vistas, we want to catch sight of some of the world's rare animals, and #1 on my list was the elusive and beautiful jaguar. 
I constantly bugged my guide about the possibility. "Where's the jaguar," I would ask, "What do you think the odds are that I'll see the big cat?" ... "when's the last time you saw one?" Apparently only four days earlier a group of Chilean girls were kayaking down the river when a jaguar jumped into the water, swam, caught the world's largest rodent called a capybara, which can grow upwards of 150 pounds (now that's a big rat!) and pulled it back onto land and into the jungle. Wish I was here for that!
capybara on the riverbank
capybara on the riverbank
We spot the cat's favorite prey on the riverbank. It doesn't seem especially fearful of us, chewing on the blades of grass as I film him from the boat, before he decides to disappear under the cover of water.
spotting a capybara in the morning on the riverbank

One afternoon as I rested for siesta in the hammock, my guide excitedly wakes me from my nap. "A jaguar is nearby," he yells, I'm already grabbing my camera and putting on my boots, sprinting up towards the riverbank. "We could hear him roaring moments ago."
We jump in the boat and head out crossing the river from where the noise emanated. We circle back and forth hoping to catch sight of the large cat, whose nearby presence is verified by the unusual amount of squawking from the birds and forest animals. Unfortunately, the cat doesn't make an appearance outside the trees, and my suggestion of entering the forest is shot down by my guide as incredibly unlikely to have a desired outcome. 
monkey - Tombopato Reserve, Peru
the best photo of a monkey I have from the jungle (center)
As opposed to jungles of say Laos, where most animals have been hunted out of existence, there is a lot of life in the Amazon Rainforest,  but when you're hiking amongst the trees, with camouflage and an incentive not to be seen, animals are quite hard to spot. I saw three groups of monkeys, but the moment they caught wind of our presence they vanished into the forest like ghosts.
toucan- Tombopato Reserve, Peru
if you look closely you'll see a toucan in the upper left part of the tree
wildlife photography ain't easy
parrot - Tombopato Reserve, Peru
Polly the Parrot is easy to make friends with
Of course, the Amazon isn't always the safest place. In addition to poisonous snakes and anacondas which I am happy we didn't encounter, we did run into a few spiders whose bite results in death.
deadly spiders of the Amazon

The river of course has tons of life, from fish, to otters, turtles, and caiman. You just have to keep your eyes open.
releasing the caiman back into the Tombopato River

dead grasshopper- Tombopato Reserve, Peru
a large grasshopper (se morto)
But the highlight of the area is the Macaw Clay-lick, an hour and a half away by boat, where the macaws feed on the nutrients in the clay each morning to detoxify their body. 
You can take a look at the clay lick from afar below and (hopefully) hear the Howler Monkeys sounding off. 

howler monkeys sounding off at the macaw clay lick (turn up your volume)
macaws feeding at clay lick
photo I took with my camera via a telescopic lens
of the macaws feeding

Alas, my time in the jungle ended without spotting the elusive jaguar. The odds of course were against me, but the clay-lick was so awesome, it made up for it. Almost, it almost made up for it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Caiman Hunt in the Pitch Dark- Tombopato River, Peru

white caiman of the Amazon Rainforest
white caiman of the Amazon Rainforest
You might think that waiting until nighttime is an odd time to go on a hunt in the Amazon Rainforest. "You're going to trip, fall in a ditch, and get eaten by an anaconda." Granted, this is a real possibility (not really) but counterintuitive as it might sound, it's actually easier to spot animals in the pitch dark.
Over millennia, evolution has created camouflage to help animals blend into the forest, helping hide both predator and prey, but without the chance to adapt to manmade technology, high powered lights shining at night will reflect back from the eyes of animals in a bright red glow, enabling us to pinpoint the creature's location which otherwise would have remained hidden.
searching for caiman of the Amazon Rainforest
approaching the riverbank + caiman in the night
We head out in a riverboat, insects flying all around us, attracted by the strong light hooked up to an old car battery being shone across the river, aimed at the shallow water and river banks. 
Tonight we are fortunate, an eerie red light bounces back in our direction. Our vessel glides towards the glow, our guide Milton crawls out onto the deck, laying horizontally, extending his arms down towards the river. 
handling white caiman of the Amazon Rainforest
pulling the caiman from the water (action shot)
With one fell swoop Milton grabs the caiman around the neck and tail. He pulls it up and into the boat, the Chinese tourists jumping backwards, frightened; me, I'm much more amazed at our guide's skill and dexterity.
He holds the caiman up for us, educating us about the animal, guessing it's likely age, then offering us the chance to handle it.
handling for caiman of the Amazon Rainforest
the light bounces back from the eyes with a red glow

video: watch the red eyes glowing in the light after our guide catches the first caiman

video: handling the caiman

The poor animal, despite being 8-10 years of age, clears its throat, instinctually calling for Mom. He's handed to me, he seems ... almost docile. As I adjust my grip the caiman attempts to thrash his way free. Once I've regained control, the animal once again seems to calm, perhaps awaiting his next opportunity for escape. I hold the animal tightly, but not so much to hurt him. 
Having perhaps selfishly handled the animal for long enough, we release him back into the water, hopefully not worse for the wear, and head back towards base, using our high beam to scan for larger animals such as jaguar or capybara, but only encountering birds (mostly nightjars) and a mother caiman with ten babies on the riverbank. We don't mess with the hatchlings, momma's present. Never piss off a mom. 

video: releasing the caiman back into the river

handling white caiman of the Amazon Rainforest