The 2018 Rebel 500
The saying that “all roads lead to Rome” has been used since the Middle Ages and is derived from Medieval Latin - referring to the fact that the Roman Empire's roadways radiated outwards from its capital.
The same concept pretty much applies to our very own Bloemfontein - the capital city of the Free State province – which can be viewed from above as having many spokes radiating outwards from a central hub.
This unique feature in the province has allowed Bloemfontein’s local Rebel Conspiracy MC to capitalise on the fact that various routes could be set up from base camp Bain’s Lodge to form a ring run distance of approximately 500 km – thus the “REBEL 500”.
We were invited 3 years ago to attend this amazing event by VO470 Rudi Liebenberg – enjoying dual membership of both VOG and the Rebel Conspiracy MC. The round trip takes the form of a Poker Run with each individual paying an entrance fee, collecting stickers at various checkpoints and when completing the route – to receive a metal badge and an entry into a grand draw. Proceeds of the day's outing would go to a local charity.
The 2018 Rebel 500 took on a clockwise route to the east as follows – with progressive distance in brackets:
1. Bains Lodge 2. Sports Club – Tweespruit (93km) 3. Lord Fraser Hotel – Wepener (171km) 4. Nell's Restaurant – Zastron (238km) 5. Buckley's – Smithfield (310km) 6. Hotel Sarie Marais – Reddersburg (383km) 7. Bains Lodge (451km)
On Friday 23rd November 2018 - many of the Gauteng VOG participants decided to meet up at the R59 Blockhouse garage, where an early breakfast suited most of those gathered here:
While stopping to refuel in Ventersburg, it was decided to check out Adolf Fick's family roots in this bustling Free State town - including a stop-over at the Daddio's Pub & Grill.
One half expected the town folk to vacate the stoeps and line the sidewalks as Adolf's rumbling Boulie led the procession around the neighbourhood, but I believe that the late morning heat had kept all the town folk inside - as not too much was happening..... Daddio's provided a thirst quencher or two - thanks to Mr Fick's generous offer of a round of drinks on his account!!
Pushing on to our destination - Bains Lodge is situated on the R64 - not too far from the N1 highway that runs through Bloemfontein. With it's range of accommodation available, it has proved to be decent sleepover for the Rebel 500 - also based on the same property.
Friday evening saw us gather at the Bush Pub, where the ground floor section had been set up as a private function area for the Rebel 500 participants. Here we met up with our Rebel Conspiracy hosts and the other VOG members that had left Gauteng a little later that day.
Of course - VOG Dog stole the show as usual, got many cuddles and was treated to complimentary beverages and biltong by old friends and those wanting to make his acquaintance.
Later that afternoon, we had a relaxing braai together, chatting about the day's ride and our expectations for the Saturday trip.
Saturday morning - 24th November 2018:
Some slept in a bit later than others - but by 7am all the VOG'rs had left Bains Lodge to encounter the early Saturday morning sights and sounds of Bloemfontein city central, as we headed eastwards past the airport and into the rising sun.
Tweespruit Sports Club:
After a refreshing 93 km ride, the first stop was at Tweespruit - a once busy little town, but now a much more subdued dairy farming community. We were welcomed to the Sports Club with much enthusiasm by the locals and with VOG being the first of the Rebel 500 group to arrive, were engaged in hearty conversation with those preparing the buffet breakfast.
Lord Frasers Guest House - Wepener:
The next stretch was a 78 km run southwards to Wepener. With Derek taking the lead, the obvious choice to enter the town was via the first entrance chosen by the Garmin - a lovely scenic tarred road traversing a stately old steel bridge along at Jammerspruit - over the Caledon River.
The state of the tarmac deteriorated as we travelled further, until a sandy river bed swallowed up the road completely. With the promise that our destination was only 1km ahead - Danie, Corrie, Cathy, Michelle and Derek took on the challenge, dug our heels in and pushed on.
The stuff that storytelling and name-calling is made of......
We met up at the old manor house of Lord Fraser in Wepener.
Donald Fraser had bought a trading store in Liphiring, just north of Mafeteng in Basutoland in 1877 to sell blankets and other goods. In 1878, he requested his younger brother, Douglas Henry Fraser, to join him and after the Lesotho Gun War in 1881, they moved their base of operations to Wepener.
The Guest House has been lovingly restored and features many historical momento's.
Breakfast here was not the most exhilarating experience - but as my good friend and fellow traveller Pierre Urtel once explained - in an attempt to detour from the popular and reliable fast food franchises, one needs to patronize the lesser-frequented establishments in the spirit of adventure!
A 67 km stretch further southwards took us to Zastron - a small agricultural town in the Free State and about 30 km from the border of Lesotho. It is situated at the foot of Aasvoëlberg, named for the rare Cape vultures attracted by a feeding project a short distance out of town.
Derek & Michelle took time out en-route to take in some shade, clean air and experience the sweet sound of .......nothing.
Nell's Restaurant in Zastron:
A most pleasant surprise and in retrospect was the first prize for a great breakfast. Having already partaken of the morning meal in Wepener, Derek and Michelle treated themselves to a fantastic coffee shake, while the group following on behind us, settled into a scrumptious menu made available here.
After a 30km stretch from Zastron, we met up with the N6 National road at Rouxville. Despite ongoing roadworks which limits the single lane traffic, this N6 road from Bloemfontein to East London is a really under-rated stretch, with some amazing towns and scenery along the route!
As we headed north to Smithfield, a few stop-go's limited us from what would have been a great ride overall - but all part of the adventure.
Buckley's Restaurant & Bar - Smithfield:
Smithfield is a small town founded in 1848 in the Orange River Sovereignty. Situated in a rural farming district it is the third oldest town in present-day Free State.
By now it was hot...hot...hot and one had to resort to cooling the system - including cold drinks and a very welcome fan at Buckley's.
Smithfield to Reddersburg - a 73km stretch of typical Free State straight road, flat and a little boring if it weren't for the group ride. The occasional overtaking of slower vehicles ahead made for a bit of a change and pumped the adrenaline a bit.
The town was built around the Reddersburg Reformed Church , which was established on the farm Thorbeck on 7 May 1859. The church counsel bought the farm Vlakfontein to establish the town. The name is Afrikaans and means "Saviour's Town", from "God is our Saviour". The town was managed by the church until 1894 when it was handed over to the municipality on agreement that a hereditary tenure of 33 pounds sterling must be paid by the municipality to the church on an annual basis.
Sarie Marais Hotel - Reddersburg:
A vibey eat and drink spot with a local muso relishing his full day audience - maybe he was being paid by the hour?
The last stretch back to Bains Lodge was uneventful, with most bikers heading straight back to the Bush Pub - to present their sticker collection and to receive the blood red metal badge.
VOG Dog had gotten us to "plak" them onto his jacket, while others utilized their helmets to display their trophies.
Back at the Bush Pub on Saturday evening - the crowds pulled in to eat, drink and participate in the end of Rebel 500 festivities. There was of course the motorcycle grand prize!