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Trip Cancelled - Looking at possible replacement trip

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OK - this is why you buy trip insurance. My husband and I are in our early 60s. We were scheduled for a nice LONG Africa tour with OAT, to have departed October 10 from Washington DC. We'd paid for everything back in April - nearly $12,000 total. Late August, after the flurry of before-school-starts doctors appointments our 31 year old 1st grade teacher daughter schedules, she learns a funny mole on her hip is indeed malignant. Labor Day weekend got in the way of the schedule for scans and whatnot her oncologist wanted (the insurance co was being slow -- the doctor finally stepped in and berated them with "It's NYC Public Schools. They're good for it" Anyway, the full body scan shows no other cancer in her body, and surgery is scheduled for Sept 24, with the doctor telling her she had a 90% chance that would be the last surgery she needed unless...yep. Oct 1 she learns the sentinal node had some cancer cells, making it stage 3. Another surgery scheduled for Oct 8. We tell her we're driving to NYC several days before to be with her. When she's told she'll need to take off 3 weeks for recovery and needs someone to stay with her the first week, we make decision to cancel our trip. (Really, a no-brainer). After surgery her Dr comes to talk with us and says it couldn't have gone better. Pathology found no further cancer in the rest of the lymph nodes they took out, so they didn't need as extensive a surgery as they might have performed. Still, her recovery will be long and she'll need a year of interferon treatments, but he told us that 5 years from now, we should be able to celebrate a victory over that horrible disease. She's telling us we need to reschedule our trip ASAP. Our week together was good -- she has a wonderful support group of friends whom we have come to feel like as extended family, and after that first crucial week of recovery, we depart for home. (It's a good thing we all get along well - a tiny one-bedroom apt across from Inwood Park is really small for 3 adults, even if you do love each other!) She's gonna have some killer scars from her left hipbone down her left thigh - probably will tell people she was attacked by a Great White Shark.

Now. On one hand, we really need a vacation. On the other, we're still probably in shock. Travelex & OAT have been great dealing with the cancellation, so I expect we'll have no problems getting our $ back. People are compassionate and very helpful.

There are a couple of "last minute" options that are intriguing -- &Beyond has a REALLY super deal for a 10 day mobile safari -- just don't know if we can really get it together for their Oct 22 start date (from Maun). I'll be watching their site the next couple of days because if they offer the same for a week later, I may pounce on it.

Second tempting option: A company called Zambezi Safari & Travel Company, based in the UK and Victoria Falls, came back in response to a late-night request with a wonderful proposal for 12 days. Really, it sounds magnificent and much more interesting than the OAT tour (certainly suits our independent traveller history better) but it is TOTALLY in Zimbabwe - combining the Matusadona, Mana Pools, Hwange and Victoria Falls. Their guy in Vic Falls is a very experienced fellow named Chris Worden. (I don't know why, but his name is vaguely familiar to me.)

Has anyone heard of this company? Even if we don't make this trip in the next couple of weeks (we have multi-entry visas to Zimbabwe that are good until Jan 10) we might still consider it well into next year. We'd fly into Harare, and take a charter to Mana Pools, staying at Ruckomechi for 3 nights. Then a flight to Bumi Hills, Lake Kariba to Musango Safari Camp, which is on an island in Lake Kariba overlooking Matusadona National Park for 3 nights, with canoe, powerboat, open vehicle and walking game viewing. We'd also get to fish for Tiger fish (and DH loves to fish). We'd then transfer by boat back to Bumi Hills and fly to Hwange, where we'd head for Makalolo Plains Camp. This place sounds incredible, and there are Lion and Wild Dog research teams which would include us in their radio tracking activities if they are there at the same time. Again, 3 nights there. We would end the safari in Vic Falls at Ilala Lodge (where we would have stayed with OAT) for 2 nights, then return to Jo-burg. They would include our flights from and to J-burg in a cost of $5400pp. Frankly, it sounds almost ideal to me...but I still may be in shock from the emotional roller coaster of our unexpected family challenges.

Sorry this is so long, but I'm kind of living in the moment these days.

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