The Buro road trip: blazing trails to Thredbo
Desperate for an escape, Buro culturemaker Noelle Faulkner road tests the new Holden Trailblazer, and gets lost on the road from the snow
It's funny, it has only been in my two years since turning 30 where I've completely embraced the appeal of large SUVs, like my test drive-of-the-moment, the new Holden Trailblazer. I've always been more of a two-seater tyre burner or muscle car girl, alas I got older, the appeal of being able to throw a mattress in the back, find a campsite and curl up with a lover suddenly became as much of a fantasy as revving my way around in a late 60s V8.
Yet, it was a recent trip to Thredbo from Sydney in said Trailblazer where I realised the true advantage rock-hoppers possess when when it comes to choosing your own adventure. Because, when stress builds and life tends to overwhelm, you can hit the road without worrying about where the journey will take you or what's around the corner.
You see, I'd been talking with a friend who owns a small, albeit powerful, A-class Mercedes-Benz, musing on my romantic four-day road trip. It turns out, a week apart, we'd taken the same scenic route back to Sydney from Thredbo via Cooma Road, a 138km route that stretches east through the pristine Gourock National Park and Budagwang National Park on the NSW coast, popping out at Nowra. A road that on Google maps is deceptively labeled as "some roads may be unpaved", but was more like a glorified fire trail.
My pal told me he aged at least ten years that night. You can imagine -every bump sounds expensive, every jolt comes with a crippling anxiety of a potential tyre pop on a backroad with zero phone reception and no signs of life. That's weird, I recalled no stress of the sort, because my meaty 7-seater came with with no second thoughts. Every pothole (if you even felt it) was a thrill, every mud trail begged to have tracks left behind and every open section of road taunted the 2.8L, 147kW, 500Nm, Diesel beast to take it on... But let's roll this back a little to how I ended up on that breathtaking dirt road.
The Holden Trailblazer is a grand re-imagining of the Holden Colarado, a utility-like SUV with creature comforts like heated seats, AppleCar Play and Android Auto Phone Projection, remote start and a five-star ANCAP rating; an adventure mobile that's yours with spare change from $53k. An excellent choice for a family often on-the-move, for sure. So obviously, it makes the 6-ish hour drive to Thredbo a dream, one that you also want to do swiftly, before you hit the stretch of Monaro Highway between Queanbeyan and Cooma that becomes a marsupial death trap at sundown.
From our high-seated vantage point, my partner and I rode the last leg almost in silence, mesmerised by the Monaro Plains and the breathtaking landscape of boulders near Cooma -another reason why you shouldn't do this drive by night, it's just too beautiful. The car effortlessly snaked up the mountain to where we checked in at the Thredbo Alpine Hotel, a historic hotel that is a stone's throw from the snowfields and boasts a pumping après-ski cocktail party each night (complete with open fire pits and a heated outdoor spa), incredible dining options and charming décor not unlike that of Twin Peaks' Great Northern Hotel. Also, the best in-house massage you can find on the mountain.
Prior to hitting the ski fields, the breathtaking millennial pink sunrise that casts shadows across the snowy peaks, begs you to take chilly strolls along Thredbo River where you might stumble across a wombat, wallaby or a platypus in the stream below (circular ripple patterns are a tell, FYI). During spring, the snowgums and boulders are dotted with wildflowers, with more walking tracks open throughout the Kosciusko National Park, most of which are usually closed in wintertime.
After two days on the slopes and a seemingly bottomless cocktail hour thanks to the hotel's epic wine list, hitting the road becomes a tug of war. The pull of this exploration vehicle says it wants to move, and yet it becomes harder not to make pit stops to climb out and onto the car and be humbled by the snow-capped alpine view or continue the search for wombats and platypus. It's tough when you so desperately want to see a wombat, but also, knowing their road sense, you don't want to see a wombat.
A snap decision at Cooma, an hour out of Thredbo leads to one more night, in a quaint roadside motel, the High Country Motel, a cosy and completely modest haunt with large timber windows that frame a rainy bush scene as if lifted from a Banjo Patterson poem. Cut to the icy morning dew, a fork in the highway and a desire to take a dirt road to the coast was where the Trailblazer truly lived up to its name, we just couldn't not take the rough path which saw it splash over low-lying bridges, trail mud and climb gumtree-lined hills. Thus cementing the idea of the SUV as an escape tool in my mind. I get it now.
So much of alpine life is a cyclical routine of snowboarding and indulging repeat, repeat, repeat- and sure, that happened; I have the bruises and belt notches to prove it. However, the rush of splicing the edge of your board into powder is powerful, it doesn't compare to those little transcendent moments of discovery where the light hits the land just right and the weight of modern life simply drops and you say, "let's take the road less travelled". Climb to the top of the mountain or on the roof of your car, breathe the alpine air and be humbled by nature's many forms, take the long way home.... Sometimes we can drop the stress ourselves, sometimes we need a little nudge and sometimes it simply just helps to have an all-terrain tool.
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