Posted by: billpurdue | July 11, 2010

World climate and a “World Garden”

I must admit that I’m getting a little late in posting on my blog, so apologies, if you’ve been checking and only finding the one you already saw previously. I’m blaming it on the fine dry weather we’ve been having recently. The lack of rain is getting a little worrying, and at the moment I’d rather not think about the kind of weather the experts are predicting for the future. ….but if you would like to know about our future weather, try Turned out Nice by Marek Kohn [Faber and Faber £14.99 9780571238156] which is described as “a stark and authoritative vision of Britain after a century of global warming”. You have been warned.

Impenetrable Forest

I had never heard of the Darien Gap until I read a book about two intrepid, some would say foolhardy, backpackers who tried to cross it in 2000. Tom Hart Dyke, a young botanist and orchid enthusiast and explorer Paul Winder attempted to cross this gap in the Pan-American Highway in Central America. The Gap is an area of seemingly impenetrable rainforest which is home to some groups of local Indians, but is also haunted by groups of guerrillas.

Tom and Paul had only recently met; the only thing they had in common was their love of backpacking and their desire to conquer the gap, but they soon formed a firm bond.  In spite of warnings from local police and just about anyone else they asked, the two adventurers decided to try crossing the gap, but were captured by a group of guerrillas who may have been part of FARC (“Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia”). At first the guerrillas wanted one of the two to go back to England and raise a ransom of £3million and bring the money back to free the other, but Tom and Paul would not agree to it. Sometimes it seemed that at any moment they could be shot, but for some reason no attempt to “dispose” of them was made.

It was three months into their period of captivity that the pair were told to prepare to die. Whilst Paul spent what he thought would be his final hours in prayer, Tom designed his “World Garden” for Lullingstone Castle, which is his ancestral home.

They were not held in one place for any length of time, presumably to make it harder for anyone to find them. Their captors changed from time to time, and so did their treatment, the conditions they had to live in and the food they were given to eat.  Eventually they did manage to reach safety, but they were missing for nine months. It isn’t one long tale of hardship, but a real thriller of an adventure punctuated by some hilarious moments and the odd nasty disease

After their ordeal, they collaborated in the writing of  the account of their ordeal and  The Cloud Garden [Transworld £7.99 9780552771207] was the result. The story is told alternately by Tom and Paul, a style of writing which is a bit unusual, but easy to get used to. Both are really good story tellers and I was soon hooked.

Tom has also written An Englishman’s Home [Corgi £8.99 978-0552155069] published in 2008, which is the story of the creation of his “World Garden” .


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