El Gouna Ghost Retreat

A few months ago, John O’Nolan suggested a date for the first Ghost retreat. I penciled it into the calendar and forgot about it. A good few weeks later, on April 30th, the date was set and flights were booked. It was happening! Three of us would be flying out to Egypt to stay with John for just over a week.

On May 19th, I was on a flight with Hannah from Gatwick to Hurghada. After 5 hours of looking at clouds and desert sand, we landed and were a little shell-shocked with the heat.

We had fair warning what to expect next, but it was still a shock.

As you walk into the terminal at Hurghada, everyone is shouted at by local businessman offering visa’s, camels, and limousine’s, which are taxis to you & I. A mass of about 20 people are shouting for attention as everyone either flocks to them or shuffles to the side of the building where you can buy a visa from an Egyptian bank, which is what we did.

We got our visas, went through passport control and baggage reclaim. We then walked outside to find our prearranged taxi driver. We found him, got in and started the drive to El Gouna, which took us through the city of Hurghada, which looked very much like a set on Call of Duty. Very dry, little greenery and some of the worst driving ever. It must be said, however, that we didn’t nearly crash once. Everyone just seems to think a straight line has many curves.

Our driver was great, taught us a couple Egyptian words (which I have already forgotten) and avoided deep pot holes very well. We got to El Gouna in about 30 minutes after listening to Justin Beiber and the like. Apparently that’s good music to some.

We got to John’s apartment, waited a little while for Sebastian to arrive (who had just gone through the (almost exact) same journey) and had a home-made chilli. We were all sat round a table, beer in one hand, a fork in the other. 4/5 of Ghost were all in one room. It’s a real shame that Sarah wasn’t able to make it. It felt a little empty without her there. :(

Even a few days, it’s hard to remember what happened each day, so I thought I’d highlight a few things we did that stick in my mind.

Breakfasts on the beach

(I wasn’t kidding!)

Almost every day, we walked down to the beach and pretty much had the same thing every single day. Eggs on toast, but with this cheese stuff that was like Philadelphia. It sounds simple but tasted pretty damn fantastic!

Speed Boat Lagoon Tour

We were lucky enough to be given a lagoon tour on a boat, and it was a lot of fun. And an eye opener - seeing how much of El Gouna there is on the water front. Pretty much everything of note is less than 20 meters from water.

Raft Building

We accepted the challenge to compete in the second annual raft building competition, held at The Club House.

We built what we thought was a solid craft. It felt solid, nothing moved a millimetre, knots were tight, beers were had. We were filled with confidence!

We listed diligently to the rules, heckled a little, then stood waiting for the starting signal. I pushed us off the beach into the water and we were under way! We paddled, fell behind so paddled some more. We reached the other bank well behind of the others, then our raft started to fall apart.

Ultimately, we came last and we swim back, but we did have victory flaming Sambuca, which I screwed up. Breathing out after you light the drink in your mouth is a bad idea. Fire + alcohol + extra air == OUCH!

Work

Y’know, sometimes we did work. Most of the week was spent planning & discussing things. I now play a big role in the re-working of Ghost-UI, which is going to be a lot of fun and a steep learning curve.

Aside from that, we still held an IRC meeting the day after we all arrived. It was very odd. We were all sat in the same room, with a beer, in silence. We eventually migrated outside to the balcony, with another beer, mostly in silence too.

There are some parts of being distributed that are hard to let go.

Motorbikes

El Gouna is technically private land. It has its own security, not a police force. Healthcare is private, infrastructure is private. It is for all intent & purposes, totally private land. As such, there’s no need for license plates or even licenses to drive anything. This is why John could borrow a car to help someone out and why I could borrow a mini motorbike from a friend to simply ride around for a bit.

I picked up riding a bike very quickly indeed and had doubled the previously set top speed for this particular bike. Proud.

Numbers

I know how awesome numbers are, so throughout the week, I kept a list of what I’d personally done.

Drinks

  • 16 beers
  • 10 shots
  • 6 wine
  • 2 baileys
  • 2 Caipirinha
  • 2 rum & coke
  • 2 vodka and sprites
  • 1 mojito

Things

  • 7 taxis
  • 6 tuctucs
  • 4x mini motorbike rides (thrice across El Gouna, only fell off once!)
  • 3 night clubs
  • 2 free lifts
  • 1 borrowed car
  • 1 favor
  • 1 power boat
  • 1 lift on a real motorbike
  • 1 fucking amazing burger
  • 1 witnessed a supreme cock block
  • 1 beach party

Credit

Thank you Ghost for the amazing job, the amazing opportunities and the amazing holiday meetup.

Credit goes to John, James & Mia for the photos.