on 16 June 2003
To describe the kidnapping and subsequent holding of two Englishmen by possible FARC guerillas in The Darien Gap for nine months, it would seem unnatural to use phrases such as funny, entertaining, and horticulturally insane; but they are more than appropriate.
Upon starting the book there is a question over how well it will read with the narration switching between Paul and Tom, however, it does read with fluidity, and the comments each of them has to make about the other are often amusing. Despite the ignorance and sometimes aggressive nature of their kidnappers you can't help but feel some sympathy for them stumbling around the jungle with no specific purpose except to eat, drink, destroy or abuse. The guerillas offer some superb individual characters ranging from the truly horrible "Bitch", to the alarmingly considerate "Will Smith."
No interest in orchids or horticulture are required to enjoy and be fascinated by this tale of bravery and courage under quite absurd circumstances.
on 15 March 2003
An unforgettable experience for the authors and readers alike.
The Cloud Garden by Tom Hart Dyke and Paul Winder is the true story of two backpackers who are kidnapped by murderous South American Guerillas and held captive for nine months in the jungle of The Darien Gap. Their extreme ordeal is relayed in a style that blends both Boys Own Adventure and extreme survival. The book is uplifting and moving, at turns funny and nail-bitingly thrilling. This is achieved by the mature mix of humourous tales with page-turning moments of suspense where the reader wonders what will happen next to the guys.
I loved the book and read it cover to cover in 24 hours. It made me laugh out loud in places and moved me near to tears in others as I marvelled at the authors sheer will power and determination to hang onto not just their lives but their sanity and most importantly their sense of humour too.
The authors manage to recreate the smells, sights and sounds of the jungle as easily as they lend their hands to caricaturing their captors with names that instantly give life to the characters that people the book.
Tom hart Dykes passion for Orchids and all things horticultural is both crazy and interesting , and his travelling companion Paul Winders laconic observations of his mad friends gardening obsession is as drily funny as anything Michael Palin has to offer on his travel logs.
It's not all humour, as the hardships that the pair encounter are graphically displayed in the book alongside Toms clowning and Pauls dry delivery.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone interested in travelling, adventure, Orchids (!) and the triumph of the human spirit over adversity!
on 22 July 2008
And now for something completely different.
Tom Hart Dyke, (the plant nut), and Paul Winder, (the climbing nut), tell the harrowing story of their capture in the Darien Gap.
"Don't go there" they are told again, and again, and again. Do they listen! Of course they didn't, if they had, they would not have been able to write this book.
With each young man giving their own accounts of their experiences throughout, they take us on a daunting journey. The story starts as a tale of their meeting. The colourful and detailed scenes give the reader (if they have an imagination) a real feel for the surroundings. The graphic details of the camps, the sights and smells, give the reader all that is needed to be dragged into the jungle with them.
As the story unfolds and the terror begins, you can't help feel the fear and dread. But with brilliantly punctuated humour, these two brave, potty, extrovert, confused, defiant, and terrified Brits, manage somehow to get out, not only with their lives, but with their sanity intact.
A song and dance routine, of a well known song from The Life of Brian, is now thought to be the British National Anthem by their Captors each of whom had be given nicknames by Tom and Paul. Given the terrible circumstances and the conditions they live in, it's hard not to feel some sort of pity for some of them who quite clearly didn't want to be their any more that Tom and Paul.
Tom's obsession continues as he badgers the guerrillas into taking him orchid hunting, and at his deepest hour, he designs a garden (as any plant nut would in his situation).
A brilliant tale of dogged determination to survive, humour and borderline insanity, constant fear of execution, then sudden release, kept me in suspense.
I read this book in less than 24 hours, and finished at 3.26am. I had to get out of the jungle. I laughed out loud and at times cryed. I'm sure most people will do the same. I recommend it to everyone.
on 21 December 2004
I have just finished this book and really enjoyed it, it has kept my attention all the way through and left me with nothing but admiration for the two guys and what they endured, although what they entered into was to say the least ill advised, they seemed to cope with their ordeal with remarkable cheeriness when faced with some truly horrific circumstances, all in all a great read, well written, you will enjoy it!!
on 15 December 2005
Not your usual 'how I spent my kidnap' essay. I picked this up second hand in a Dubai bookshop, not expecting much from it, and was hugely pleased with what I found.
The clumsy and downright barking protagonists are in turn endearing, infuriating and hilarious. Gone are the macho action movie fantasies about what to do in a tight spot and in come song and dance numbers in the jungle along with abject fear, disarming hilarity and extreme gardening.
A great read, even my usually chick-lit obsessed partner couldn't put it down - so get it and enjoy it, you won't regret it.
on 27 April 2003
This is a book which sucks you in. Starting at a gentle pace of 'yet another travelog of our fantastic holidays', it accelerates steadily and relentlessly into an epic of endurance and, frankly, luck.
Despite being warned not to by many experts, Tom Hart and Paul Winder decide to embark on a trek across guerrilla-infested Panama into Columbia. The unlikely couple, Tom, the orchid fanatic, and Paul, the intrepid explorer, soon come to grief with a band of brigands. I constantly wondered at how they dealt with the day-to-day tedium of capture tinged with the fear of what tomorrow might bring, the total lack of control in the hands of their captors and the terrible living conditions at times in the jungles and swamps of Central America.
The swings and roundabouts of human emotion from absolute despair to helpless hilarity keeps you gripped from very early on in the book. Tom straining at the leash with his infectious insuppressible enthusiasm for orchids has some surprising results in the guerrilla camps and Paul's desire to improve his Spanish becomes vital in understanding their predicament and talking to their captors.
However, despite being gripped by this book from cover to cover, my over riding emotion through out was 'why were they so stupid?' But then aren't we all in different ways? That is what makes us human.
on 3 June 2003
This isn't at all the sort of thing I normally read but an extract in one of the Sundays caught my interest and I had to find out more about these boys' ordeal.
Despite the repetitive nature of some of the story - inevitable I guess, given their circumstances - it is gripping, and the atmosphere of the guerilla camp high up in the sweaty jungle is brilliantly captured. I suppose the fact that one knows that they must have escaped/been released/been rescued in order to survive to write the book reduces the tension somewhat, and I did find myself getting irritated with Winder's pessimism and self-pity and Hart Dyke's bumbling puppyish clumsiness. The writing is not of a high order, but hey! they're botanists and trekkers, not literary giants. That being said, it's a fascinating account - you really do feel you've lived through the whole nine months with them.
The Cloud Garden is an immensibly enjoyable book, somewhat remniscent of Touching the void, removed to the Darian Gap, particuliarly in the way the narrative switches between Paul and Tom as the story progresses, although for me Toms narrative is the better, as he is quite an eccentric character, and its most amusing to hear him relate his garden building excercises while being held captive, much to the exasperation of the guerillas.
The story is propelled along at a nice pace as we follow the lads from their capture while foolishly attempting to cross the darian gap, through their internment in various jungle camps at the hands of a ragged bunch of guerillas who may have some connection with farc.
The characters of the guerillas quickly established by the boys habit of giving them nicknames, and the battle of wits between the two groups is often hilarious.
Despite having a good idea that things are not going to end up to badly, there are still plenty of moments of tension, and its hard not to feel the despair and fear, its a shame the map at the front of the book gives away so much of the story really, especially the absurd events following their capture.
on 14 July 2013
Listening to a radio 4 comedy panel show, something I dont normally do I happened to hear about the book and thought why not, I'll read it on holiday.
Not my normal kind of read but Im so glad that I did buy it and take it with me.
A different writing style as its two peoples different take on the same events (but also the same) writing each chapter and sectioned like that, to say that I was hooked was an understatment , from start to finish I enjoyed it very much and finished the book in just over two days.
on 26 December 2013
I read this book as it was to be discussed at my local book club and I must say that I was disappointed. Whilst I appreciate it is a true story, it is ultimately a story of 9 months of tedium during their capture by a guerrilla group. Due to the nature of the story, and the repetition throughout the book, the writers (Tom and Paul) did not hold my interest, (I do appreciate that it is non-fiction) and so in my opinion it was a waste of my reading time.