Avid traveler Laura Marshall knows the value of local expertise—that's why she enlisted kimkim to plan her dream trip to Peru. Her group decided on the Salkantay Trek, a five-day adventure through remote landscape, ending with Machu Picchu. Check out this interview to learn why she loved it and what it's like to trek with an expert guide.

Hi Laura! Tell us a bit about yourself and your travel style. 

Laura (2nd from left) and her husband, sister-in-law, and brother (photo courtesy of Laura Marshall)

One of my greatest passions is travel. Aside from pure enjoyment, I feel that opening myself to the perspective of others—whether through landscape and nature, communities, or individuals—is deeply important. I hope that it reflects in my endeavors as a physician in humanitarian field work someday.

What are some of your favorite destinations?

Keeping the tent dry at camp on the Salkantay Trek (photo courtesy of Laura Marshall)

Japan has a special place in my heart, as it's my mother’s country of birth and a place of wonderful childhood memories. I grew up as an Army brat and so traveled around the United States often on the road during our cross-country moves. I've also been to Israel, Tanzania, Kenya, Cairo, Cambodia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Belize, Jamaica, Mexico, and now parts of Peru!

Naturally, it is difficult to choose favorites because each place is unique, but I have to say that I was blown away by my time in Peru and have not felt so refreshed in many years as I did after this visit.

What made you decide to seek local expertise for your Peru trip?

Views from the Salkantay trail (photo courtesy of Laura Marshall)

Seeking local expertise always seems to be the best route for a safe and fulfilling trip, and we researched for a long time—both by word of mouth and on websites—before deciding to book with kimkim.

After a couple years saving up for our dream adventure in Peru, my fiancé and I were finally able to plan our trip for the end of the rainy season in early April. We're so glad we landed on a guided trek through kimkim with Quechua Treks Peru. This turned out to be an experience of a lifetime, one that cannot be fully shared with others in words and photos. You simply had to be there.

From the start, our local specialist James was always available to answers questions and helped us get set up with the travel plan and trek we wanted. He was in touch with us from beginning to end and made sure we were able to coordinate with Quechua Treks for what was needed, from contacts to prices and dietary restrictions!

Do you have any memorable moments from Peru you'd like to share?

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The group at Machu Picchu (photo courtesy of Laura Marshall)

The sights were unforgettable. Incredible microclimates with endless flora and fauna, butterflies, waterfalls, wild strawberries, racing clouds, tree canopies. Thousands of years old aqueducts and ancient Incan ruins, meeting local people along the way.

On our first night of camp, our bright view of the milky-way galaxy was incredible. We loved touring the coffee plantation, zip-lining and very much enjoyed the hot springs on our third day. Our camping tents were perfectly comfortable and the train ride on Peru Rail and accommodations in Cola de Mono and Aguas Calientes were also very nice.

And of course, Machu Picchu was unreal. Climbing Huayna Picchu was totally worth it!

After this extraordinary trek, I felt changed, refreshed, and encouraged in many ways. I returned home feeling better about myself, the extreme physical challenges I faced. I left Peru with a new perspective and new friends I felt sorry to part with. 

Tell us how cultural experiences enhanced your trip.

Camp breakfast (photo courtesy of Laura Marshall)

We loved having Peruvian crew members along for the trek. No part of the language barriers between us prevented us all from enjoying each other, constantly laughing, gesturing, translating for each other, cracking jokes, and learning from each other. I felt that everyone became family and I will never forget the warmth they showed us. They took such good care of us.

The Peruvian food was also amazing. Prepared by our chefs, Edgar and assistant Donato, everything was fresh, filling, and healthy. There were hot drinks, fresh produce, quinoa and bean bread, an abundance of gluten-free foods and snacks due to dietary restrictions, salads, potatoes (of course), chicken, hearty soups, and even a cupcake for my birthday made last minute. We agreed that we enjoyed our meals on the trek even more than what we tried in Lima, which is said to be THE food capital.

Did anything about the trip surprise you?

Laura and her guide Rolfi (photo courtesy of Laura Marshall)

Our guide Rolfi! He was the heart of the entire group, bringing everyone together. He never stopped cracking jokes, had answers to our million questions, and always had the best stories to share. He was unendingly patient with us as we were perpetually stopping to take photos of the beauty around us (and as we huffed and puffed during our ascents).

Rolfi was there with us from start to finish, ensuring that each of us was feeling well and enjoying ourselves, extremely astute to each of our interests, and we all learned a lot from one another. We loved him and could not have asked for a better guide! It was hard for us all to say farewell to everyone in our crew.

Do you have advice for travelers interested in doing a trip like yours?

Aguas Calientes (photo courtesy of Laura Marshall)

Obviously, the weather will vary from year to year but during the trek, there are many different microclimates you will travel through. Weather can change even from minute to minute—rainy, windy, sunny, freezing, temperate, to humid and hot. Pack accordingly.

And bring an umbrella! Another tip from genius guide Rolfi. I did not have one, as I was being a bit of a Seattle snob about umbrellas, but I wish I had. There is a lot of stopping on the trek to un-layer and re-layer jackets, hats, hoods, rain covers, etc. Having an umbrella would have reduced some of that.

My trekking pants dried very quickly from body heat even after getting soaked several times, and while moving I was not cold. Others
in my group brought outer rain pants and that was helpful to them as well.

Would you recommend this trip? Is there anything you would change if you could do it again?

Scenery from the trek of a lifetime (photo courtesy of Laura Marshall)

I would without hesitation recommend this trip. The only thing I would change for this particular trip would be to plan more time to see more of the museums in Cusco and to explore the salt mines and Rainbow Mountain. And—even as a Seattleite—I would have brought an umbrella!

Laura's trip was planned by James L. Mackender, a kimkim local specialist in Peru.

Read this article for more info about planning your own Salkantay Trek adventure with kimkim. Deciding between Salkantay and the Inca Trail? This guide can help you choose