Your Holiday Disaster: For Julia Mulholland, surfing in Morocco was supposed to be the challenge; getting home proved a bigger one ...

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The Independent Travel
THE Moroccan Surfing Safari of 1973 began with a crisis. One of our group of five, the owner of the shiny new VW Dormobile that was to be our transport and home for the next four weeks, was rushed into hospital with acute appendicitis.

We were due to leave the next day, and he generously lent us his vehicle - the trip had been meticulously planned, right down to the last kilometre and cornflake.

Trawling the Atlantic coast of Europe for surf, then surfing our way down the coast of Morocco, from Kenitra to Agadir, was a doddle. Driving through the Atlas Mountains, running out of fuel and surviving on a litre bought from a Swedish couple, freewheeling into Marrakech, and sleeping rough with scorpions was all part of the adventure, and worth it for the excellent surfing. It was getting home to the UK from Tangier that turned into a nightmare.

We arrived at Tangier dock on the due date to board MV Eagle, our ferry back to Southampton. No sign of her. We were told by the authorities that everything was OK, we could pick up the ship in Lisbon, in just half-a- day's time. Crossing continents, changing currency, buying maps and fuel was all irrelevant to them. It was "Get to Lisbon or tough luck".

The local African ferry to Algeciras took us on board. We docked safely, changed currency, bought a map, filled up and drove hell for leather to Lisbon. We arrived within one hour of sailing only to find ... no ship. Instead, there was a huge queue of angry people. With no choice but to join them, after two hours we were told: "Sorry, no ship, broken down, arrives in two or three days. Please accept these meal and hotel vouchers with our compliments". The hotel and free meals were a welcome break for poor grubby surfers, but our holiday time was running out, and there was still no sign of our ship. Finally, after three days of queuing for vouchers, we were offered flights home. The van would be loaded on to the MV Eagle for us and would follow us home.

Two weeks later, we were informed that MV Eagle had docked in Southampton. Our vehicle was impounded - could we collect it? In rainy Southampton we were greeted by HM Customs. Anything that was loose or would unscrew was dumped onto the wet tarmac in the fruitless search for drugs. We were left to pick up the pieces. Then we discovered the saucer-shaped dent in the bodywork. "Sorry, only one of four vehicles damaged in transit." We drove back to Wales in shock. Our friend did at last get his Dormobile back - getting the insurance money from MV Eagle was another story.