Carol's Reviews > The Cloud Garden: A True Story of Adventure, Survival, and Extreme Horticulture

The Cloud Garden by Tom Hart Dyke
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's review
Jul 01, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction, adreniline-adventure
Read from June 19 to July 01, 2011

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 area of Colombia known as Darien is like. Unlike the writers of this book, I had no intention of trying to machete my way through The Gap, but to be lead by experienced guides to a nice, safe retreat After reading The Cloud Garden and being privy to Tom and Paul's ambush and kidnapping and hearing some of the continuing political turmoil, I think my adventure to Darien and Colombia is on hold.

Two young, read this as somewhat foolhardy, Brits who somehow come together decide that crossing The Darien Gap on foot would be challenging yet fun. This stretch of dense jungle, inhabited by guerillas and drug runners, had only been successfully navigated by 2 Americans when Tom and Paul made their plan. They met with skepticism and outright warnings by officials and backpackers alike as they told of their plan to hike through to Colombia. At least Tom can be forgiven his craziness as he dreams of finding new species of orchids that may only exist in this jungle maze. Paul seems just to want to do it as few have.

As I read Paul's preparations I was fascinated by the things he felt he needed for jungle travel. A machete, five dollar cooking pot, straw mat, iodine, matches,and a lucky dollar watch previously purchased on the Mexican border comprised most of his pack. He also stashed a small amount of dried food for emergencies. Travel light and travel cheap seemed to be the creed. I am always interested in what goes in the pack on adventures such as these. This interest dates back to when I read Bill Bryson's Walk in the Woods and laughed at the Little Debbie's in Katz's pack. At some point these had to go. So Tom and Paul pack . The two get underway and had almost reached their goal when the ambush came; swift, brutal, and with guns aimed at their heads. They truly did not know whether they would live or die. Thus began a nine-month ordeal as they are held hostage, not certain by whom, not knowing if a ransom has been demanded, or when, if ever, they might be let go. They are moved from place to place, their guards changing as frequently as their location. Yet, they never seem to really be treated badly and if you can believe it, there are some humorous parts to the story too. Tom and Paul come up with some interesting and funny names for their captors. They manage to craft a deck of cards, a chess set, draughts, play 20 questions, and sing. The food, though not great, does sustain them. Like most jungle stories, there are insects you'd rather not know about, muddy water you don't want to drink or bathe in and of course, rain and heat. I'm not giving anything away by saying they survive, as you know they do because they wrote the book. How they did is the essence of the story and though it is a great adventure and though I love this kind of story, I have no desire to duplicate it myself.

If I hadn't read it with my very own eyes, and hadn't done some research about the two, I might have wondered if the tale were true; it was that amazing of a story. I couldn't put it down.

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Comments (showing 1-3)

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message 3: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia No machete!?

Carol Yes, yes, a machete!

message 1: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia lol

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