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Honduras' Sierra de la Botija

This little-known forest mountain region near the border of Nicaragua is one of the great undiscovered treasures of southern Honduras. Seven peaks above 1,500 meters have patches of cloud forest on top. On the lower slopes descending into Nicaragua are patches of primary tropical dry forest. The mountains here give birth to the Rio Coco, Central America's longest river.

The forest of Sierra de la Botija are excellent for spotting birds of all kinds, blue morpho butterflies, and several mammals (even a jaguar not long ago). White-faced monkeys are seen all over the forest. Several waterfalls are found in the sierra.

In 2000, Valerie Peters, a Peace Corps volunteer, worked with a group of locals to build an interpretive trail up to one of the cloud forest peaks, Cerro de guila. The owner of Restaurante La Exquisita in San Marcos runs a nature refuge called Ojochal in the mountains, with a stone cabin for visitors. Ask at her restaurant in San Marcos for details.

The best access to the mountains is via the village of Duyusupo, reached by twice-daily buses from San Marcos. From here locals will happily guide visitors anywhere they'd like to go in the park, including up Cerro de guila or to the waterfalls. Another way in, closer to the source of the Rio Coco, is taking the highway back toward Choluteca, and turning off to the aldea of Comali. The Cohdefor office in San Marcos can supply more information on the park, and may be able to help out with rides.

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