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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

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  280 Ratings  ·  46 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
Paperback, 336 pages
Published December 1st 2005 by Lyons Press (first published March 3rd 2003)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 535)
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Jul 01, 2011 Carol rated it really liked it
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
Jun 08, 2015 Dani rated it really liked it
From being strangers to getting kidnapped in the Darien Gap, these two guys go through hell and back. Makes me not want to travel outside tourist areas!! A great read
Emma Cooper
Aug 31, 2010 Emma Cooper rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 17, 2010 Vanessa rated it it was ok
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
Feb 11, 2009 Dana Stabenow rated it really liked it
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
Jun 13, 2015 Kevin rated it it was amazing
This was a must read for me as I almost made the journey myself in 1992, but was turned off by the warnings I had heard from other travelers. When traveling rough in Latin America you hear about various no-go zones and the experiences folks have had there. At some point you tune out to all the warnings and start taking chances. This is an epic tale of what happens when you push your luck too far.
Richard McColl
Apr 26, 2015 Richard McColl rated it really liked it
A tremendous account of survival in the jungles of Colombia, kidnapped by a splinter group of the FARC? guerrillas. I managed to interview Tom Hart Dyke in 2014 for my radio show "Colombia Calling" and rereading this account was fascinating to see how he would do things differently today with the benefit of hindsight.
May 14, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it
Fast read, crazy story. I learned about Tom Hart Dyke on The Great British Gardening Revival and was intrigued by his story of being kidnapped in Colombia while backpacking/orchid hunting. The book didn't disappoint!
Jul 29, 2013 Mic rated it did not like it
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
Sep 30, 2014 Annie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plants
This is my favorite book!
Janet Roberts
Apr 25, 2012 Janet Roberts rated it it was amazing
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
Simon Wheeler
Jan 24, 2013 Simon Wheeler rated it really liked it  ·  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
Phong Nguyen-le
Jul 05, 2015 Phong Nguyen-le rated it liked it
As far as books on orchids go, this is pretty entertaining.
Rich Boyett
Mar 09, 2015 Rich Boyett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

It's not Faulkner or Dickens but a pretty good tale none the less.
Lauren Read
Jul 16, 2014 Lauren Read rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 14, 2013 Izzybatz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 21, 2010 Paul rated it liked it
Shelves: outdoors
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.
Jun 16, 2007 Christy rated it really liked it
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.
Dec 13, 2015 Mrs.Lady rated it really liked it
These 2 young English yo-yo backpackers decide to trak across the Darien Gap, the jungle swamp inferno infected with guerillas even though even the Lonely Planet Guide advises "dont even think about it". Ignorance is bliss? Sure enough, they get captured nad well, since they wrote this book they DID survive. Their tactics were simple, be agreeable and act innocent and the fools made it through this insane adventure. Fascinating read! ...more
Sep 28, 2010 Kate rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 31, 2014 Margaret rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting read. I had never heard of the Darrien gap and so I found that or read much about the troubles in that area so it really fascinated me. I love orchids and enjoy reading about things that fire peoples passion. this book had me looking up the maps , finding out more on Wikipedia and googling about the orchids. I really liked the style it was written in and couldnt put it down.
Suzanne Cook
Jul 07, 2013 Suzanne Cook rated it it was amazing
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!
Apr 18, 2012 Megan rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 17, 2012 Virginia rated it really liked it
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
Mar 19, 2008 Judy3 Hatz rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 15, 2007 Michelle Donnelly rated it liked it
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!
May 19, 2012 Vanessa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 15, 2014 Jan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
An interesting enough book, but the overarching question is "Why?" There was an element of irony and frustration at irresponsible and inept travellers being kidnapped by irresponsible and inept "revolutionaries".
Nov 29, 2012 Peter rated it liked it

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.'
Oct 05, 2008 Gabriel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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