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The Cloud Garden: A True Story of Adventure, Survival, and Extreme Horticulture Paperback – December 1, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press (December 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592287891
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592287895
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 6.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #262,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The 16,000-mile Pan-American Highway runs from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, interrupted only by the 54-mile Darién Gap, a dense jungle along the Panama/ Colombia border. Few cross this lawless wilderness, where drug traffickers and guerrillas hide out. When British botanist Dyke and London banker Winder met in Mexico four years ago, they teamed up to tour the Gap, despite the region's danger. Dyke hoped to find rare orchids, while world traveler Winder sought a new challenge. After six days, they were ambushed by a guerrilla group near Colombia. Held hostage, they encountered flesh-eating worms and considered escape possibilities, amusing themselves by nicknaming their captors, listening to BBC World Service and entertaining the guerrilla camp with a performance of Eric Idle's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life." The fun was short-lived. Baffled by Tom's orchid-hunting enthusiasm, the kidnappers believed the two were CIA agents or drug dealers and came from great wealth. When a $3-million ransom was requested, the authors refused the demands and were eventually released with no explanation. Written with humor and suspense, this is a vivid account of their nine-month ordeal. Dual first-person viewpoints are seamlessly spliced together, and the format provides a prismatic presentation of contrasting attitudes, allowing each author to comment on the other.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"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

"Written with humor and suspense, this is a vivid account of [Dyke's and Winder's] nine-month ordeal. Dual first-person viewpoints are seamlessly spliced together, and the format provides a prismatic presentation of contrasting attitudes, allowing each author to comment on the other."--Publishers Weekly

"Told in alternating voices (which works surprisingly well), this is a well-written adventure story filled with intrigue and hope."--Library Journal

"Readers will find themselves turning pages and delaying dinner while Winder and Dyke slowly blossom into the heroes of their own misguided adventure."--BookPage

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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I went to panama and read this book on vacation.
Matthew D. Redmond
All the while, I was hoped they would not give the guerillas information to make things worse, but Tom is honest to a fault.
Northern Exposure Fan
A fast paced, rousing read to satisfy the thirst for adventure and curiosity.
William J Higgins III

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Hamilton on September 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
On maps, the Darién Gap doesn't look like a hotbed of armed guerillas. But you have to ask yourself why the Pan-American Highway, which runs otherwise unbroken from Alaska to the bottom of South America, takes its one and only break between Central and South America-at the Darién Gap. The gap's jungles have been effectively off-limits even to the hardiest backpackers for the past 10 years. Guidebooks and Central American officials alike have just two words for it: "Don't go."

So why would Tom Hart Dyke and Paul Winder, two well-brought up British lads, disobey so many direct orders and venture into the Darién Gap with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a couple of packs? In their "true story of adventure, survival, and extreme horticulture," The Cloud Garden, Dyke and Winder explain themselves. Dyke's passion is orchids. For him, the untrammeled jungles and wetlands of the Darién Gap represent a botanist's dream-an opportunity to see rare flowers undocumented by any other scientists. Winder, an escapee from a boring bank job, is in search of the ultimate adrenaline rush. The fact that almost no one dares traverse the gap makes it an irresistible challenge. Both adventurers get what they are looking for-and a lot more than the original bargain.

Just as Winder and Dyke are about to cross into the relative safety of Columbia, they are kidnapped by a band of FARC guerillas. What follows is a harrowing tale of torture and a fight for survival. The young men know enough Spanish to hear the kidnappers talking matter-of-factly about murdering them on an almost daily basis. For months, Winder and Dyke are marched from one makeshift camp to another-deprived of clean water, threatened and humiliated.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bobby D. on October 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book's topic caught my interest as did a good magazine review. (The copy we purchased from Amazon.com was without pages 118 to 179 so check before you begin to read. Amazon.com was great and sent us a replacement volume which also was missing the same pages. We finally found a bookstore that exchanged it for a correct version.) The story here is about two young men who choose to hike into the guerrilla held The Darien Gap between Panama and Columbia. The gap where there is no longer any Pan-American Highway. At the end of their telling (I'm not giving anything away, after all the authors wrote the book so you know they survived) the authors make the comment that the British press caught on to the story because of Tom Hart Dykes love of flowers. It was the "hook" all newspapers look for in such stories, and that is also the hook they use in telling their story. But your not going to learn much about Orchids from this story is told in parallel first person narrative which centers on their immature decision to tempt fate and danger and then tests their ability to survive. In a strange way the book reminded me of Jon Krakauer's excellent "Into the Wild" about a youth who graduates from College and ends up alone, dead in the wilds of Alaska. Both books share that same desire to decipher why some young males make such choices. Overall I would recommend the book as an interesting first person adventure, but it is strangely lacking suspense and I really was let down that we really learn nothing about the band of guerillas who hold them captive. I certainly missed that insight which is so strong in the novel "Bel Canto".
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Oliver Peterson on June 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The Cloud Garden came to my attention through a review in Outside Magazine. True adventure books make for an excellent break from novels and heavier literary works. This one is a perfect example. The story is gripping, the characters are likeable, and the book is hard to put down. The bad guys are painted honestly and roundly as real people. No one is all good nor all bad. This is a story about survival, wits, humanity and the romantic ideals of adventure of which so many of us dream. Find your synopsis elsewhere.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on January 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The discoveries made by eccentric British naturalists down through the years have literally turned the scientific community on its ears. But not all exploring trips have yielded spectacular results. In 2000, a young botanist set off to Central America in search of rare and beautiful species of orchids. He met up with another young explorer in northern Mexico. Where else to go but the Darien Gap, the only place where the Pan-American Highway isn't finished.

Traveling through the Gap, collecting along the way, they were just hours away from the Colombian border when they were ambushed by FARC guerillas who were to hold them hostage for the next nine months. From then on, their survival was a matter of extraordinary endurance, incredible ingenuity and not just a bit of luck.

The book written by this pair is a combination of travelogue, adventure store, and surprisingly not without a bit of humor.
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Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. 'Pageturner' unfortunately is not a word I use for many books - but this one was a pageturner for me and that is why I loved it. I am a traveler and a gardener, so I was naturally drawn to this book. But I don't think you need to be either to enjoy it. In fact, I didn't get enough 'gardening' out of the book (which is part of why I think the title is inadequate). Towards the beginning, their captivity seemed 'pleasant' enough, and I was thinking that this story wasn't going to get to me. I was wrong. Rarely have I been so concerned about characters in a book - I had a little trouble falling asleep thinking about how badly they were being treated. The way they kept outwardly cheery as a strategy is inspiring. I was furious at their captors and couldn't imagine being able to utilize their strategy for more than a day. One last thing I liked about this book was the Britishness of the language. I am from the US and it was refreshing to not have the language Americanized.
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