Got carried away with paddling – Read about wilderness guide Noora Peteri’s amazing experiences

12.4.2022, Kati Jukarainen

Paddling is the centre of Noora Peteri’s life, that has taken this experienced wilderness guide all over the world. Hailing from a small village called Sirkka, in the municipality of Kittilä, in Lapland, Noora is now living her dream as a paddling guide on Svalbard and Antarctica. See what 26-year-old Noora’s everyday life looks on Svalbard, known for its polar bears. And what about crossing the stormy Drake Passage? Pull a merino beanie tight on your head, because you’ll have a rough ride, when Noora the Adventurer takes us along to Svalbard, and from there forward to wind and snow! 

melonta-noora-peteri
Noora Peteri is an experienced paddling and wilderness guide.

Paddling and wilderness guide’s job is a vocation

Last summer Noora Peteri got her training as a sea paddling guide, and this opened doors to new job opportunities. Early part of 2022 went by sailing between Chile’s Punta Arenas and the Antarctic Peninsula on 10 days’ cruises where Noora acted as a sea paddling guide on customers’ sea trips. Previously Noora has worked winters on sleigh safaris on Svalbard and summers on paddling and hiking trips. 

Regardless of her young age, Noora has solid experience of doing things in nature. Coming from the village of Sirkka, Noora is a northern girl, a real child of the winter. Ever since she was only a small child, she has liked to spend time in nature studying the environment. Summers went riding her bike in villages, and in winter she went down the slopes whenever possible. Young Noora was that good on the skis that she practiced Alpine skiing on the competitive level until the end of the secondary school.

Spending time and working outdoors were a natural choice for Noora already when she was young. 

’On the other hand, you might think otherwise, after you have spent 10 years with frozen toes on the slopes that someday you might cross a line and wish to be somewhere warm. During the last few years there have sometimes been moments when I’ve thought that should I go sometimes to a warm place. Winter and dressing in layers, however, is just so natural, and I enjoy it! I enjoy that I can put on layers!’ tells us Noora, who loves her job as a paddling and wilderness guide.

melonta-northoutdoor

Before paddling, Noora worked for seven years as a wilderness guide in Lapland. After a few years filled with sleigh safaris, Noora, hungry for new challenges, felt that it was the time to move on, towards new adventures. She was driven forward by her desire to develop as a wilderness guide. After sending work applications all over the world, an entirely new adventure was waiting for Noora, on chilly Svalbard, employed by a popular company called Better Moments. 

’I still remember when I wrote them e-mail before going to work. I pressed the ’Send’ button and went to work. After a couple of hours, I noticed that they had already sent me a reply. They asked if they could interview me immediately. We talked for a moment on the phone and agreed that I’d start the job after two months’, Noora recalls the exciting moment.

I have used merino wool base layers for the past 7 years during summer and winter. I think that’s the best thing you can get with your money.

melonta-northoutdoor
’I think the world needs positive approach and taking care of others. Some close people say every now and then that you don’t have to be always helping and rescuing other people. I. however, would like to have more caring for others in the world. To treat others in a way we wish others to treat us. Regardless of the situation.’ 

Svalbard – the island of polar bears

Life on Svalbard is unique and different. The island has a checkered history, as for a long time, it was ‘no-man’s-land’. Even though for the last 100 years Svalbard has belonged to Norway, there have been a great number of whalers and mining entrepreneurs from other countries, too.

The biggest, the most special and hairy factor differing Svalbard from other places, is of course the beady-eyed symbols of the Arctic nature, polar bears. Because of these kings of the north, weighing even 600 kilograms, Noora does not ever get away from inhabitation without the appropriate safety means i.e. a warning pistol and a rifle.

Svalbard is said to have more polar bears than people. Differing from that saying, it is not usual to run into a polar bear even though it is possible. For this reason, you should always have safety equipment close at hand. Noora knows to tell that on an average one or two polar bears get every year shot because of a conflict with a human being. 

The main village of Svalbard, Longyearbyen, is the home of approximately 2 500 people, and Noora is one of them. About one half of the inhabitants of the very international village are Norwegians. In addition to them, you may run into representatives of more than 50 nationalities in the village. ‘You’ll get well along using English in Longyearbyen’, Noora tells us.

Paddling challenges, teaches and broadens

Noora has several hobbies, however, the most important one is paddling where she thinks she is able to challenge herself. Noora believes also that paddling will open her new doors. Several other ones of Noora’s hobbies have their focus on water: ice swimming, swimming indoors, paddling and spending time at sea are the centre of Noora’s life. Major part of the working hours is also spent at sea. 

Water itself as an element fascinates Noora, and it is hard to believe that she used to be afraid of water. ‘This goes once again back to that personality strait in me. It is important to challenge myself’, Noora says. 

Even though the job of a paddling and wilderness guide sometimes almost goes for a hobby, Noora has still got time for doing her own things. In leisure time Noora likes to go on long hiking trips and camping alone. Her longest hiking trip alone was over 150 kilometres trip in Lapland, and it took about one week. Slopes and a snowboard have also called Noora the last few winters. When it is the time to empty your mind, Noora likes to move on to a yoga mat, go to a gym or to jump into a hole in the ice.

Towards Antarctica

Noora’s most recent job was on the Antarctica at the beginning of 2022. It was not that simple to start the job of a sea paddling guide. Life and travelling have changed a lot because of the pandemic that has been on the loose for a couple of years. It has complicated Noora’s life on Svalbard as a temporary lack of customers as well as in the form of massive paperwork that needs to be done when travelling to Antarctica. Noora always carries a folder of documents with her, that enable her to prepare her for all things possible and impossible.

Packing for Antarctica is demanding, too. You should not pack too much, because there is very limited space available; nevertheless, you cannot get yourself anything anymore after you have reached your destination. ‘When you step onboard to a boat heading for Antarctica, you’ll be there until the beginning of March’, Noora sums up.

paddling-northoutdoor

Noora’s solution for the packing problem is merino wool: ’I’ve worn only merino base layer sets for the last 7 years all summers and winters. I think it is the best thing money can buy ‘.

Merino wool suits perfectly for paddling. Merino wool garments feel comfortable against the skin, and they keep you warm even though they get wet. Thanks to them being antibacterial, it is easy to freshen merino wool garments quickly by airing, which means that there isn’t much need to wash them. Even on longer trips you manage perfectly with two merino wool sets: one baselayer set functions as an extra layer if it gets cold or if the other baselayer set gets wet. Besides all this, as a material, merino wool is comfortably flexible.

’I’ve worn North Outdoor merino garments daily. For Antarctica, I also packed almost only North Outdoor’s merino clothes to take along with me’. 

The outfit Noora can rely on consists of North Outdoor Intense Pro collection college pants and a T-shirt and both thin merino wool socks and thick merino wool socks. This outfit functioned perfectly also during the journey towards Antarctica that took several days.  Sometimes it was hot, and sometimes cold; merino garments, however, worked perfectly in both conditions. Sometimes it was necessary to run and sweat; nevertheless, I have not been cold at all, even though my back had got a little moist with sweat. 

’At first, clothes can be a bit close fitting, because merino wool as a material stretches and gives a little in’.

Noora’s North Outdoor favourites include also warm merino wool boxers of the Artic collection, which have perfect fit and length according to Noora.  When the weather is cold, she wears a merino wool beanie and a versatile soft tube scarf.

pingviinit-etelämanner-northoutdoor
Bold penguins, prancing around are entertaining company.

A trip worth the trouble

The early part of January was hectic for Noora. Four days travelling: five flights, three coronavirus tests and one missed flight and a 24-hour wait at the Miami airport. 

After the trip, Noora spent a 10 days’ quarantine period at a hotel in Punta Arenas in Chile. 

Noora spent the quarantine period usefully studying the history of Antarctica and local birds and animals, until it was the day of departure and the time to jump on board the boat. The destination was to cross the Drake Passage which took two stormy days. There were the magnificent ice fields of Antarctica and new, exciting adventures waiting for her at the destination. 

The tasks of a paddling guide on Antarctica have been unforgettable for Noora. There have been so many things to see. Lovely penguins have been particularly memorable. Most of the penguin chicks were already that big that they managed on the continent without their parents. It remained the parents’ task only to take care of providing food for the chicks. After a few weeks, the chicks would be on their own. 

Weather on Antarctica is rather varying. Already during the first cruise, there was wind, snow and rain, however, also the warmest day of the entire summer. Because the paddling program is extremely sensitive to weather, and the customers did not necessarily have any paddling experience, we have headed to the sea only when the weather conditions have been good.  Noora got a chance to participate also on trips to the continent amidst penguins. In addition to the entertaining penguins, the participants of the trip met a few humpback whales, and two of these happened to swim very close to paddlers. 

Noora managed well during the paddling trips wearing North Outdoor’s merino wool clothing she has found to be good for the purpose: ‘Merino wool garments are versatile and handy in a way that you don’t need to wash them all the time. Mere airing is enough, and nature thanks you’.  

As far as future is concerned, Noora is still looking forward to a few adventures while working. ’The job on Antarctica was a dream come true. Antarctica is one of the most wonderful destinations, and I feel privileged to have had a chance to work there.’ 

Noora intends to return to Svalbard for paddling and sleigh activities. Noora has several ideas in her mind for the future; time, however, will show where the road leads. ‘We’re living this moment, trying to be present, to dare.’, Noora Peteri sums up eventually. 

paddling-northoutdoor
A dream of a winter without any stress had to remain in the future, when ice fields, whales, penguins and new experiences called for one and a half months’ work period on Antarctica.