Thursday, June 27, 2013

Losing Autofocus: A Fraction of a Second in Borneo


It’s hard being a travel writer when the jungle technology gods are against you.

The day before Kattina and I leave Singapore on our trip to Borneo, I dash out to buy two needed items: hiking shoes, and a camera lens to replace my lens that’s been malfunctioning since our trip to Burma last October. I find a zoom lens at a great price, and Gore-Tex shoes that cost more than I normally spend on shoes, but good shoes are important when you’re anticipating scary jungle blisters.  I’m pleased with my purchases.

One week later, we’re motoring down a river a longboat, headed to Clearwater Cave in Mulu National Park. The riverbed is lined with large, round stones. There’s no pier when we reach the cave because, hey, it’s the jungle. Getting out of the boat will require stepping into three inches of water.

This is bad. Several kilometers of hiking, plus wet feet, equal blisters. I should have brought my flip-flops.

But I devise a clever plan to avoid getting my feet wet. There’s one stone bigger than the other stones. It comes up almost to the water’s surface. If I step just right and stretch my leg a little farther than normal, I can land on that stone and make a quick hop to shore.

So I step toward my special, big, round rock, which, it turns out, is a special, big, round, slimy rock. My new hiking shoes are no match for the slippery slime. As my right foot flies out from under me, I manage to land on my left foot – albeit in three inches of water.

“Phew!” I think. “Close one!”

Then I think, “Damn. I got my feet wet.”

Then I realize I have not regained my balance.

Then I crash face-down into the river.

This all happens in less than a second. I land on my right palm, attempting, with my left hand, to keep my camera above water.

“Are you okay?” Kattina gasps from the boat.

“I’m all right,” I shout back as I lay in the river, though I’m not sure that’s true. My hand is throbbing and my backpack is filling with river water. But I’m thinking, “At least I saved my camera.”

Kattina jumps from the boat to help me up. As I get to my feet, 97 gallons of river water spill from my lens.

I don’t know at what point my camera got dunked. Did I submerge it when I landed? In my dazed state, did I land okay, but let go of it as I was standing up? It doesn’t matter. The lens drips for the next hour, and condensation forms on several layers of glass.

Kattina has heard that when you drop electronic gadgets in water, putting them in a bag of uncooked rice will pull out the moisture.

We try this. Fortunately, rice is a staple food in Malaysia. Alas, two days later, the condensation is still there.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Losing Autofocus: A Fraction of a Second in Borneo
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