... When I first heard about this trip, I'd never heard of Pachacamac, or Chorrillos, or even Cusco or Manu before. Even as I began to read about these places, during the weeks and months before departure, they remained names--just like the colorful illustrations in my Guide to the Birds of Peru - were flat, lifeless. I tried to learn, tried to understand, but I had no idea what it was really like until I was right there in the middle of it. The Peru trip was like one giant birthday present, unwrapped slowly over two weeks, each day, each hour bringing some dazzling new surprise. Despite my many careful checklists, I was unprepared for the unrestrained love of hundreds of schoolchildren, for our numerous jungle adventures. But most of all I was unprepared for the beauty. It was everywhere--from the great soaring sea-cliffs to the gigantic flatness of the lowland forests. And as I went from surprise to surprise, those things that had been mere names began to come alive. Those stiff illustrations were gradually replaced by the real thing, brightly colored and singing loudly. They're still coming alive, in fact--we had so many incredible experiences that I still haven't had time to remember them all! Even so, there's really no doubt that this was the most fantastic trip I've ever been on. And it was an honor and a joy to go on it with you. For all the long hours of planning, for all the careful choreography of buses and events and people, and for the generosity and will to share something that amazingly beautiful--thank you.