After a couple more days relaxing on Ometepe it was time to move on. We caught a ferry back to the mainland, and then buses north to Leon another old colonial town, similar to Granada but more faded and crumbling. We spent a couple of days exploring the city, and then headed out to the beach for New Year's Eve. We found an amazing place called Rancho Esperanza, in Jiquilillo (pronounced Hickalee-o). This is a village of around 125 families, most of whom earn their living by fishing. The coastline is drop dead gorgeous (6km of deserted sandy beach, blue blue sea, fantastic waves), and commercial development is surely inevitable. So Rancho Esperanza is aiming to provide good value accommodation for travellers in a way which encourages integration with the community and will help them to manage their own tourism as it develops. It employs some of them, arranges for them to act as guides for local tours, helps them become surf instructors, provides a Kids Club where the kids can be kids for a couple of hours, when all their chores are done.
New Year's Eve started with a communal meal for about thirty five guests and staff at the rancho, continuing down at the beach with a bonfire, local musicians, fire dancing and, at midnight, fireworks and the burning of a scarecrow, much like we would on Bonfire Night. It was a beautiful, starry night, mellow rather than frenetic, but altogether quite memorable.
Of course we started our own celebrations earlier at 6.00pm, knowing that you at home had already got to midnight, so we raised a glass and wished you all a Happy New Year!
Other than that we have spent our time here enjoying the beach and the waves, with early morning swims, a bit of body boarding, and a bit of relaxing, although there are only 18 hammocks to choose from here. The temperature is a little high for me - 92 degrees in the shade apparently. We would love to stay longer but we only have a 30 day visa for Nicaragua and there is still so much we want to see.