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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  ·  Rating details ·  378 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews

The Darien Gap, the only break in the Pan-American Highway, is a place of legend. In this almost impregnable strip of swamp, jungle, and cloud forest between the land masses of North and South America, stories of abduction and murder are rife. In recent years, more people have successfully climbed Everest than have crossed the Darien Gap.
In 2000, Tom Hart Dyke, a young bo
Paperback, 336 pages
Published December 1st 2005 by Lyons Press (first published March 3rd 2003)
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Oct 30, 2010 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 26, 2008 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
Jul 07, 2013 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
Richard McColl
Apr 26, 2015 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.
Jun 13, 2015 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.
Jan 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was a brilliant story, and very well-told. The two travellers are so honest about their experiences, and they were so brave. It is a great read.
Jun 08, 2015 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
Jeni Slattery
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My love for this book cannot be overstated. An incredible tale told with humour and infectious enthusiasm. I might be slightly in love with Tom Hart Dyke now also.

I mean, they're a pair of fools, but I like orchids and this is exactly what my mother would probably do.
Barry Ryan
Jul 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Fantastic story of two complete morons. The story keeps you trapped in this book, but the writing/book itself is... difficult. On three occasions I encountered pages in the WRONG PLACE... I need to stick to ebooks..
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book, 10/10
Apr 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Tom Hart Dyke visited my sons school and we found him a really engaging speaker. We bought his books and I read this one to my son. The story was interesting and gripping. Obviously we know the guys make it home otherwise we wouldn't have this book, but even so it was exciting when they get away. The whole story is pretty amazing, i certainly wouldn't have wanted to live it. I would say that teens and upwards would be fine to read it, theres some swearing in it, but in context and not that dissi ...more
Emma Cooper
Aug 31, 2010 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dana Stabenow
Dec 31, 2008 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
Janet Roberts
Apr 25, 2012 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
Mar 24, 2012 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
Simon Wheeler
Jan 24, 2013 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
Oct 21, 2015 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
Apr 04, 2010 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.
Sep 28, 2010 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.
Jun 16, 2007 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.
Nov 17, 2012 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.
Dec 31, 2014 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 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!
Jun 11, 2008 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.
Jul 15, 2014 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".
Judy3 Hatz
Mar 19, 2008 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.
May 19, 2012 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.
May 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Proof that truth is stranger than fiction. Fun read by a man with a unbelievably over-the-top love of orchids and his travel buddy who are kidnapped by keystone cops-like paramilitants and held for nine months.
Sarah Sattin
May 14, 2015 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!
Joan Lawson
Apr 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Wow this book will capture your interest from the first chapter. Two young travelers are captured in Columbia and this experience tests their survival skills. This true story is week written. You feel as if you are right there in the jungle.
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