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Feliz Ano Nuevo
Nicaragua: Volcanoes, Beaches, and Fireworks

Old LeonOld Leon (Marnie Green)
Nicaragua is certainly the place to ring in the New Year. It's not exactly Times Square but it's close. We intended to 'pace ourselves' through the day so that we could make it through midnight but it's hard to do when the beach is calling. Our morning was spent wandering the four streets that make up San Juan del Sur. A little shopping, a stop for a beer, and some people watching; it's easy to stay 'busy' in this little hamlet.

After a siesta we headed back out for lunch at a little comedor across from the bus station. A comedor is a local restaurant where you can get a big plate of food for about $3. From there we joined the famed Dario at San Juan Surf and Sport for our pre-booked all-you-can-drink fishing, sunset cruise. We probably didn't need to pre-book, as we were joined by another couple from New York and about 25 young partiers. At first we worried that we would be the viejos but Dario is a smart guy. He put us and the other couple on one boat and the wild group on another. We were assured a peaceful, yet age-appropriate cruise (and a lot more alcohol per person).

Our cruise consisted of a quick tour of the SJDS bay and then we headed south along the Pacific coast. With beer and rum drinks in our hands (Sam drank water) our panga anchored off of a beautiful little cove and we were instructed to 'jump.' Marnie went first and Steve quickly followed. The water was crisp, yet refreshing. And then our captain Luis handed us our drinks while we paddled in the ocean! Who could ask for more?

From there we boarded the boat again and enjoyed a cruise further south, viewing the gorgeous Nicaraguan coastline and a few seaside mansions here and there. As the sun began to set, we turned back to the north to return to SJDS. We're not sure how much we drank but our cups were never empty.

We moved on to dinner at the so-called best restaurant in town. Luckily we got the last available reservation and joined the expats in SJDS who gathered at El Colibri to ring in the New Year. Sangria, filet mignon with gorgonzola, and chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream sealed the deal. Around us the fireworks began to explode as the excitement built for the grand finale of 2011. After we closed the restaurant down we wandered the streets once again to take in the New Years festivities.

As on Christmas Eve, New Years Eve is celebrated with copious amounts of fireworks. The streets were filled with families, young and old, lighting sparklers, rockets, and bombs. Above us big colorful explosions filled the sky. Around us children lit firecrackers. In the streets stuffed dolls representing the old year were set aflame. What we didn't realize, but soon learned, was that the dolls are filled with explosives. We stood with a Nicaraguan family outside of their front door and watched the doll, who we named Carlos, blow up.

Steve describes the street scene at midnight as controlled chaos. While Carlos burned, cars drove over him, people on bikes rode by, and couples danced in the street. Down the way hundreds of people danced the night away to pulsating beachside discos.

Our parents will be happy to know we were safely in our room by 1:00 a.m. but could hear the party rage on. We'll never have another New Years Eve like this one.

Tomorrow we head back to Managua to prepare for our Monday flight home. Happy New Year to all of our family and friends!

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