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The Cloud Garden: A True Story of Adventure, Survival, and Extreme Horticulture
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The Cloud Garden: A True Story of Adventure, Survival, and Extreme Horticulture

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  210 ratings  ·  37 reviews
"Clearly, surviving a nine-month jungle kidnapping requires courage and endurance. But Hart Dyke and Winder came equipped with something else in addition: pluck. It's that quality, crackling on every page, that makes The Cloud Garden one of the strangest and most satisfying adventure reads in recent memory."--"Men's Journal magazine
The Darien Gap, the only break in the Pa...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published December 1st 2005 by Lyons Press (first published March 3rd 2003)
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My husband and I visited Panama a few summers ago. We went through the 3 sets of locks on a small Catamaran. The crew of the ship told me about another tour they host that visits Colombia. They piqued my interest in this little visited country by dangling beautiful birds, virgin forests, lots of nature and far from the crowds lodging under my adventuresome nose. This lead me to read The Cloud Garden: A True Story of Adventure, Survival, and Extreme Horticulture, hoping for a picture of what the...more
Emma Cooper
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This is the story of two British idiots (one a banker and adventure seeker, the other a gardener and orchid enthusiast) who decide to try to hike through the Darien Gap. Despite it being the haunt of Colombia's FARC and paramilitary groups, all embroiled in Colombia's civil war. They get captured almost immediately and held for nine months. They are lucky to be alive, and their story is sometimes funny, but mostly boring. Neither one is a very good writer and not much actually happened. Being he...more
Dana Stabenow
A couple of twenty-something Brits go walkabout in Darien on the border between Panama and Columbia and get kidnapped by guerrillas for ransom. It takes them nine months to convince their captors they don't have any money, and in the meantime Paul the adventurer's foot almost falls off and Tom the orchid nut builds a garden.

Told in the form of alternating first person narratives, their story is realistic and straightforward, honest storytelling with no pretensions to literature. Other than being...more
I know that people blame victims in order to distance themselves from the trauma and feel a modicum of control in preventing horrible and uncontrollable tragedies from happening to themselves.


Everyone said, "Don't go there you'll get kidnapped and killed." They went there anyway. They got kidnapped and held for 9 months, but not killed. Lucky bastards. Fucking retarded lucky bastards who lived through an incredibly dangerous circumstance they brought upon themselves because they come from...more
Janet Roberts
This is British eccentricity at it's best! Tom Hart Dyke is a minor aristocrat, and delightfully nutty! Whilst touring Mexico he hears about the Darien Gap, and with a chap he's only just met (Paul Winder) they decide it would be a fun place to visit, despite 'Lonely Planet Guide' saying quite clearly 'Don't even think about it!"
Tom finds rare orchids and is as happy as a lark, for six days, when they get captured by guerrillas who hold them captive for nine months.
I thought this a simply marve...more
Simon Wheeler
Jan 24, 2013 Simon Wheeler rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in true, survival stories, but not gardeners!
Not exactly a touristic recommendation for the Darien Gap in Central America, but an incredible, true story of survival in the rain forest, where the physical challenges are often equalled by the mental suffering - fear, stress, sometimes boredom and even loneliness.
And all the while, surrounded by the jewels in Nature's crown, rare and exotic orchids. Makes you want to go there, if it wasn't so dangerous.
The author is hardly an action man, but rather, a mad English gardener. At times funny how...more
Lauren Ann
It has been a long time since I read a 5-star book. The story is thrilling (and true), and the main characters-come-authors are endearingly British. My response is simple, but my joy in reading is profound. Great story; great storytelling.
Wonderful read. The two fellows who meet one another on a chance encounter, and despite warnings to avoid the area they have chosen, hike a rain forest and discover how disastrous life can twist and turn. The two do not have much in common and have their own reasons for entering into this adventure turned into twisted tale. The narrative will teach you much about rainforests and how human bodies interact with this humid, wet natural area. It is rather amazing they come out alive after all their...more
While I enjoyed the read, and was very interested by the premise, it was, in the end, a pretty repetitive story with a very anticlimactic ending. On top of that, it's sometimes hard to empathize with the narrators since it was pretty stupid to venture in there to begin with. In any case, some of the stories were comical and/or heartwarming, but I generally found it to be a disappointment. Not a high recommendation on my part, but certainly interesting for certain niche readers perhaps.
Two British guys, an adventurer and an orchid lover, are taken hostage in a very dangerous area of Central America - the Darien Gap. One of those non-fiction books that proves that truth is stranger than fiction, their tale is full of fear and gross-out moments (giant parasites, anyone?) as well as humor as only the British can carry off. At one point, the two guys sing a Monty Python song to their captors - I believe it is "Look on the bright side of life." Yep, only the British.
Having just returned from Panama and having had my own fascination with the Darien Gap (the unpassable land that prevents completion of the Pan American Highway connecting North and S. America), I could hardly put this book down. It's horrifying that these 2 naive, STUPID backpackers were kidnapped there but it's also laugh out loud funny at times. These 2 were SO lucky to survive to be able to write this book.
Suzanne Cook
A fellow gardening buddy recommended this book and from start to finish, I was hooked. Of course I had heard stories about these jungle kidnappings but never gave it much thought. It was fascinating to read about Tom and Paul's adventure and I love the way they used their sense of humor and gardening skills to maintain their sanity. This story could have had a very different ending!
The British version of this is just called "The Cloud Garden". The American version is called "The Cloud Garden: A TRUE STORE OF ADVENTURE, SURVIVAL, AND EXTREME HORTICULTURE". BOOYAH.

Yeah, well, the British version is more honest. I liked this book quite a bit, though it wasn't fine literature by any means, and it really wasn't about extreme horticulture.
The naration moves slowly and this is perfect to express the total bordom of being captive in the jungle for 8 months. Paul and Tom managed to keep their sanity and a level of lightheartness. This was untimatly how they survived. I could feel the "gap" of culture between first and third world with every interaction. Well worth reading.
Judy3 Hatz
A well-written story of two young backpackers one a rare flower hunting botanist, who decide to go through the Darien Gap in southern Panama on foot. They are captured and held for nine months by the FARC. Very suspensful but with much humour. Well worth reading.
Michelle Donnelly
An interesting story (how can a kidnapping not be?) But these two are not writers, just two guys that had something extraordinary happen to them. It's the type of story you want to hear someone tell you in a bar, not in 300 pages. But still, exciting story!
An exiting, funny and in parts terrifying read into the world of these two intrepid orchid hunters who are kidnapped and held hostage in the jungle. I loved this book it was definitely a page turner and I would recommend it.
Mary Lou
Here is where real life trumps fiction for suspense, edge of your seat thrills. Amazing account of two men taken hostage by Colombian guerillas and their daily lives at gunpoint.

A fun & interesting read, though definitely not the greatest writing. Hard to dwell on then when all i could think was 'what an insane and bizarre experience.'
This was a very interesting read. Rarely do I read non-fiction but The Cloud Garden turned out to be captivating from start to finish.
Bob Conder
I really loved this book. The style in which it is written is interesting as it gives most accounts from both individuals perspective.
This book is about these two dumb asses who walk into the Darien Gap and get captured by para military dudes. Its pretty awesome.
Gemma Alexander
Awesome- a travel book and a book about plants, and it's got kidnapping guerilla fighters too! What more could you want?
A real story of survival after being taken prisoner by paramilitants. Very descriptive of the flora and also of survival.
Gwynn White
Brilliant book that kept me on the edge of my seat, terrified of what would - and more importantly, could - happen next.
Paul Doyle
An interesting travel story of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and then getting very lucky.
Awesome read. Great story of survival at the hands of a (somewhat disorganised) group of revolutionaries.
Not great literature, but a good read about scientists trapped in the jungle with a rebel faction
Ann Hardman
Not terribly well written, but is a gripping account of their experience. Feels honest.
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