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Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Rebellie - Mountain Biking in The Maluti Mountains

With the camp site set up and the fire burning fiercely, I light my pipe and take a long deep breath.

I literally feel the world’s cares melt away into the valley before me as I’m watched over by the enigmatic mountains known as the Maluti Mountain Range.
Just to the left of me and somewhere in the distance behind me I hear what I first thought was the high pitched sound of tree frogs in the night, only to discover that my bush knowledge is severely challenged. It was, in fact, the bray of the countless Black Wildebeest that roam these mountains. The scene is serene and literally compels one to just sit and stare while the sun sets and the braai crackles before me.

BUT that is not why we’re here…

Our bikes are primed and rearing to get a taste of what these mountains can throw at us.
Our base camp is the 4x4 accredited farm called “Rebellie”. (When asked where the name came from Nick, the proprietor, said that he had no idea. But apparently a couple of clicks away are some caves where the Boere hid their wives during the war and this might have led to the name)

The farm is well kept boasting one of the Top Ten 4 x 4 Trails in South Africa (Drive Out Magazine 2005). This lends itself to some fun, challenging and technical routes for the more adventurous mountain biker, all the while watched on by a very wild bunch of spectators in the form of Zebra, Black Wildebeest and the occasional Eland if you’re lucky. (May I suggest taking along a pair of binoculars if you’re into birding and getting a good look at the shy Eland).
We were only there for two days and so were able to just cover the more modest routes, although we did climb the mountain to join the milder of the 4x4 routes at a strategic spot where we were faced with a descent of mediocre technicality.

The camping facilities are attractively rustic and they don’t cater for to many campers, keeping it rather exclusive.
The tents are erected around a very well built “barn” where you are able to plug in power cords and use the well kept ablutions and kitchen facility should you so desire.

Other facilities on the game farm include 2 lodges, each with a Jacuzzi and a larger dwelling (sleeps 12) suitable for large family outings, bachelor parties, Passover dinners and the like.

Once you’ve done your morning workout on the mountains there’s plenty to do on your bikes in the area. After we returned from our “wild” ride, (made a little more tougher than usual due to the altitude of 2010 meters above sea level) we rustled up a hearty breakfast, washed up and then headed on down to Clarens, a little town that offers a great eclectic experience of food, wine and great art. (It reminded me a little of the way Pilgrim’s Rest used to be before the street vendors took over there). 

We parked our car, unloaded the bikes and cycled our way around town, stopping in at the various galleries and eateries that grabbed our imagination. While there we chatted to the locals and discovered a quaint little ride down by the river through the Lombard Poplar and Willow Trees.

The next day after another awesome ride around Rebellie, watched on again by our now familiar friends the Black Wildebeest (we even named one or two of them) 
George the Gnu
 we had the arduous task of packing up camp and heading home, but not before popping in at the Golden Gate Nature Reserve, a spectacular site for even the most calloused of adventurers.
Here you will find a little 30km loop from which, on a clear day I’m told, you can see the Drakensberg Mountain’s Devil’s Peak.

All-in-all an incredibly rejuvenating experience allowing us to brush the cobwebs of the city out our psyche, connect with nature and get some great biking under our belt… a must for any serious mountain biker out there.

The Logistics:

Only 3 hours drive from Pretoria/Johannesburg/Durban or Bloemfontein, this little “jewel of the free state” can be found here: S 2834 54.6 ; E 28 29 15.1
(Due to the altitude, I suggest taking something warm as the wind can get a little nippy at the best of times)
It is recommended that you go in a 4x4 but our little Corsa Lite, with bike rack, handled it very well. (Just drive carefully)

The camp site only costs R100 a night and is a bargain at half the price. (If you want to hire the hall it’ll put you back another R800 a night, which for a large group is very reasonable)
For other info on the farm go here:
For more info on Clarens:

Where we've been