My red firecracker roars at the turn of the key, eager to start the day of exploring.
It is the day after my birthday, and there is one thing I have to tick off my bucket list before I leave Midlands in KwaZulu-Natal - meet Charlotte the ghost.
When I heard about Charlotte "the friendly ghost" a few years ago, I yearned to one day walk the corridors of the Nottingham Road Hotel in hopes of seeing her.
The story of Charlotte dates back to the Second Anglo-Boer War. Charlotte was either a guest or an employee of the hotel. She died in 1902 after jumping from the second-storey building.
Legend has it that she met and fell in love with a soldier, who later lost his life on the battlefield. Probably heartbroken, Charlotte jumped from the balcony of Room 10 where she died of complications to her broken leg.
Charlotte's ghost remained where she now wanders the hallways of the hotel.
Intrigued, I drive to the hotel in hopes of “feeling” Charlotte's presence.
I heard that she once moved a guest’s face cloth from the bathroom to the bed and unpacked a guest’s suitcase.
As I drive into the hotel grounds, I feel the hairs of my arms stand. I wonder whether Charlotte is the friendly ghost everyone, including the owner of the hotel Clive Foss, portrays her to be.
“Charlotte isn’t evil or sinister, she often entertains guests,” he explained to me over the phone last year when I was researching content for a feature titled Spooky Destinations in South Africa.
There are not many cars around when I park mine near the main entrance.
I walk into the reception area, my eyes darting to the unique styled restaurant and the art pieces scattered throughout the lobby.
Julianne Debillot, the reservationist, who I meet second later, offers to take me on a tour.
“There are many tourists who come in to see Charlotte and Room 10,” Debillot tells me as she guides me up the eerie staircase.
“Some guests even feel her presence,” she adds, as she shares Charlotte’s tragic story.
While I do not see her, I imagine she is standing at the opposite side of the stairwell laughing uncontrollably at the tourists who come to visit her.
Debillot unlocks Room 10. Next to the room door is a photo frame of General Sir Drury Drury-Lowe, who together with other photographs of men and women adorn the walls- creating an old-world charm to the hotel.
“Ready?” Debillot asks.
“Can’t wait,” I reply, knowing that Charlotte is probably rolling on the floor laughing herself to death (excuse the pun.)
I enter expecting old-fashioned furniture and unimpressive decor only to be met with a modern colour coordinated room with a king-sized bed, a three drawer cupboard with a lampshade and copies of the latest magazines on it, and a striking mirror resembling the sun.
The bathroom is ideal for the modern traveller.
Debillot takes me out to the balcony that overlooks a large stretch of land with a few playground equipment and trees.
I stand there for what feels like hours, imagining what Charlotte's final minutes. Did she cry? Did she say a prayer? Or did she accidentally fall off, hoping that someone would have saved her?
One can only wonder. I do believe that Charlotte roams about the hotel hallways to take care of guests. Whatever her reasons, this ghost has travellers from across the world visiting the town to see
It’s a pity she did not make an appearance this time.