Well I did it! I can’t quite believe it, after so long planning it. I can’t comprehend that I have had my amazing adventure already.
On the first day (Thursday) I was up at 2.30am. The airport was pretty manic with holiday goers and took ages to get through check in/security but a seamless flight and taxi ride to the canoe centre I launched from, Natura Viva, was perfect. After some lunch I pumped up Ruby, my Red Voyager paddleboard. I dislike pumping up manually (electric pump all the way!) but luckily Walter from Natura Viva kindly gave me a hand! The wind was getting up so I was keen to get on the water asap.
The paddle was one of the choppiest I’ve ever done, so thankful I’d been practising. I made it though and had to get changed as the wash had soaked my clothing!
I was so glad to finally land on Malkasaari island. The island features various services for visitors. There’s a covered outdoor kitchen with a fireplace and a charcoal grill, a recycling spot and a compost toilet. Overnight camping on the island is allowed on this island (not all of the islands in this area allow this). There is also a sauna, although this wasn’t currently in operation.
I had a little wander around the island and chose a spot I thought would be good for camping. I wanted to be out of the way, not too overlooked with a view of the water. I think I accomplished that. With my tent up I had some food before going to bed. I was really tired from my early start, flight, board pumping and strong paddle! But so excited to be here, I was looking forward to tomorrow.
Waking up the next day to a gorgeous view, I was very pleased with my camp spot. The sun was shining through the trees and the water looked calmer than the previous day.
I had a whopping 12 hours sleep and felt a lot more refreshed. I had a leisurely breakfast of baked apple porridge and a cup of tea.
After that I went off for day 2 of the adventure, paddling again. I was nervous as the day before was hard and my arms still ached! Texted hubby who said “You know what you can do, you can see the conditions just take it easy and be safe.”
Luckily conditions were much better and I passed a big seal sunning itself on a rock. I didn’t notice it was there until it jumped into the sea near me! Things were going well until I had to cross a boat lane. It’s very tricky trying to navigate, paddle and keep an eye out in all directions for the boats whizzing by. After a while of paddling I was getting tired and decided to alter my course. Paddleboarding is about knowing when is safe to go out and I wasn’t feeling very confident at that point so decided to stop and regroup.
I ended up paddling to the island formation of Villaluodot & Kotiluoto, these are three small islets, the Villaluodot, and a bigger main island, Kotiluoto. I pulled up onto Pohjoinen Villaluoto
I found a great spot to sit on some rocks and eat and enjoyed the sun. I had a stroll through the forest and then paddled home. Thankfully I crossed the boat lane without incident and got back.
The beach was so beautiful when I got back I just had to swim in the sea. Glorious! I decided to swim again as it was so nice.
I was then getting a bit cold so I carried the board back to where my tent was, got changed into warm clothes and had a drink. An action-packed day in the end – 3 mile paddle past several islands, an explore of Pohjoinen Villaluoto and two sea swims!
I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to paddle in the morning. There was a moderate wind warning and it was showing rain and 16 knots, with gusts of up to 26 knots. My priority is safety as well as adventure so I decided to assess in the morning.
Even at 11pm in Finland the sky was still bright blue and whilst it was getting a bit darker it was more like twilight. I wanted to stay up until midnight to see how light it got but my tent and sleeping bag were calling me!
Another good night’s sleep and a glorious view from my tent when I woke – sunshine sparkling on the water in front of me. Weather warnings were still the same, a strong wind advisory so I opted for just chilling out on the island today unless the weather changed.
I was feeling a bit down at the thought of no paddle today and the prospect of a day doing not much, which felt like a waste of a day. But I decided to do some research and see what I could do. The island I was on is not covered by regular waterborne transport but during the summer, you can travel to a few other islands by electrically powered Callboats. So I called a boat taxi and was on my way to Reposalmi!
It was super choppy en route so was glad I wasn’t paddling. From there I hopped on another boat to get to Vartiosaari, an old villa island in southeast Helsinki.
After a quick pit stop of cake and juice I set out on a 3.5 mile nature walk around many of the attractions on the island. There are many geologically valuable sites in Vartiosaari: the scenic viewpoint of Vartiokallio, one of the largest granite boulders in Helsinki, a giant glacial pothole (known as a giant’s kettle) and ancient coastal rocks. I loved the old forests and forest church too. The vantage point of Vartiokallio offered an iconic view over the sea.
After this it started pouring down so I gladly got the boats home, crawled into my tent to get dry and wait for the rain to stop. Early start the next day as it was my penultimate day. Conditions look good for one more paddle with all my kit and then it’s on to Helsinki to explore!
A full on day today. Was so relieved it had stopped raining that when I woke up at 6.30am I was up and getting ready for the day. I broke camp and said my goodbyes to Malkasaari.
Paddling back was thankfully much calmer and pleasant. I arrived back at Natura Viva and sunbathed for a little while – at 9.30am. After packing up my paddleboard and getting my cases back from Natura Viva, who had kindly stored them for me.
As a I had an early flight the next morning I had booked a cheap hotel in Helsinki so I could go straight to the airport in the morning without having to paddle back from the island first and get to the airport. I also wanted to take the opportunity to explore the city at the end of my adventure. I got an Uber (first time using one!) from Natura Viva to a hotel in Helsinki. Dropping off my luggage I set off to enjoy the city in the sunshine. I saw sights such as the Presidential Palace and Helsinki Cathedral.
I walked 15 minutes to Allas Sea Pool where I’ve always wanted to go. It was just 22 euros here for 3 hours of 3 pools, 5 saunas and a sunbathing deck. Swimming outdoors at in the centre of Helsinki, next to the SkyWheel Helsinki and a busy harbour with boats to Stockholm and Tallinn has to be one of the most surreal and beautiful places I’ve swum!
Back at my hotel I had a lovely shower and enjoyed sleeping in a proper bed. What an action packed few days…!
My last day, time to say goodbye to beautiful Finland. After a lovely breakfast of porridge, bacon, toast and fruit plus blueberry juice I packed up my gear and went to the airport. Can’t say I’m going to miss dragging a large suitcase, backpacks and a big SUP around with me! The day was grey and rainy in Helsinki so I really lucked out with the weather the day before.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my adventure and it inspires you to try something new. I’ve learnt I am capable of camping and cooking alone, which I’ve never done before. It’s as close as I’ve come to solo backpacking too, which is new for me. I know I’m a good problem solver and that came in handy when things came up on the trip such as wind issues and leaving my jacket behind (I got it back!).
I’m mainly proud that I could manage this adventure physically, it’s been extremely physical paddleboarding, hiking and camping. But also mentally, it has been great to have peace of mind in nature, away from the constant demands of life. It’s given me a lot more confidence in paddleboarding and I now will try lots of different places to paddle. Can’t wait for future adventures. Thanks to the Adventure Queens for choosing me as one of the grant winners – I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.
This blog post was written by Guest Blogger Natasha Sones, one of our three winners of our 2022/2023 Adventure Queens Grant.