Hike to Tarn Cave – 6 October 2018

Distance: 9.2kms

Elevation Gain: 670m

Duration: 4h27 with stops and 1hr quicker on the way down

Max Elevation: 2,364m

What a way to spend my birthday – let’s call it a million star hotel!

We followed the Tarn Cave Pass to reach the cave.  After signing the mountain register at Bushman’s Nek – Emzevelo we set off just before 8am.  9 of us in our group with hike leader Jonathan from Mountain Club of SA.


We crossed the Ngwangwane River 3 times in the first 1km.  Water levels are very low so no feet got wet.  The path is fairly flat for the first 4.5kms – we took a rest at Cedric’s Pool before we started our climb. The path is steep in places but all manageable, the one section we had to hoist backpacks up and scramble up a rock face.


It was quite disturbing to see the tarns on the top of the pass almost completely dry.  As a precaution we replenished our water supply at the last water crossing.


Tarn Cave is just wonderful, a vista looking onto the Devil’s Knuckles.  We were blessed with perfect weather conditions, two magnificent days of clear blue sky.


My gang of 6 including myself stayed at Sani Lodge in the Honeyguide Cottage on the Friday night.  We left the cottage at 6am to meet at Bushman’s Nek at 7h30am.  We took the 2nd turnoff to Bushman’s Nek – from this turnoff it is 25kms on dirt road, the condition of the road isn’t too bad but there are a few potholes and bumps to look out for.


Our group consisted of:

Gillian and Pierre, Kim and Prof, Lawrence, Melissa who I met on the Giant’s Cup hike in December 2017, Shaun (his first overnight hike), Jonathan (hike leader from MCSA

We reached the cave just before 12h30 – the group continuing up the South Knuckle had a quick bite to eat, sorted themselves out and headed off at 1pm.  Three of us stayed behind in the cave and just chilled for the afternoon.  The “knuckle” group got back to the cave as it was starting to get dark at about 6pm – they all said the climb up and down was very tough.

We had a quiz during dinner which was a lot of fun, team “Chocoholics” won 2 slabs of chocolate, very apt! Then it was time for bed, we took a moment to gaze into the galaxy and admire the millions of stars, we heard the cry of jackals a few times in the night.

Waking up early to watch the sun come up is the most special time of day for me.  The Devil’s Knuckles turn from a rich brown to green in the short space of 30 minutes after the sun is up.




We started to pack up “house”, had breakfast and left the cave just before 8am.  The descent went a lot quicker but still tough on the old knees.  We stopped again at Cedric’s Pool to cool off our feet and enjoy a snack and then pressed on for the last 5kms to reach the car park at Emzevelo just after 11am.


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