Frustrated Frenchman's tale of woe puts spotlight on small West Coast town

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Cedric Rault-Verpre has had a rough couple of days in the South Island. Photo / via couchsurfing.com
Cedric Rault-Verpre has had a rough couple of days in the South Island. Photo / via couchsurfing.com

The tale of the French hitchhiker charged with damaging a road sign after apparently waiting for four days in Punakaiki has proved a boon for the small West Coast town.

Visits to the Punakaiki Promotion Group's website have tripled this week, from an average of 120 per day to between 300 and 400.

Some pictures used by overseas media to illustrate Punakaiki, however, have been a little short of the mark with aerial views of Mohikinui, about 30km south, a favourite shot.

HAVE YOU MET THE FRUSTRATED FRENCHMAN IN HIS TRAVELS? EMAIL US

Meanwhile, a man who picked up the hitchhiker on the side of the road in Greymouth after the Frenchman's Greymouth court appearance on Tuesday has given the Frenchman a place to stay before his court appearance in Christchurch tomorrow.

The motorist told Fairfax today that Cedric Claude Rene Rault-Verpre, 27, explained to him what had happened in Punakaiki.

"It's originated from a dispute with people on the roadside who made comments about his odd behaviour long before he threw stones at the sign. He wanted a ride. They said no. It escalated. They told him to catch the bus and he was told 'why don't you f... off back to where you came from'," the motorist said.

Rault-Verpre had acted like "an idiot but not harmful", he told Fairfax.

"In the North Island he was fine. But he reckons down here they're odd and racist. He was angry he couldn't get a ride but was shocked when he was told to go back to where he came from.

"He's over it now. He can't get over how widely the story has spread. He's sitting inside looking at the computer. It's been reported in Germany, Japan, all over the place. He thinks it's a joke," the motorist said.

Visits to the Punakaiki Promotion Group's website have tripled this week thanks to Cedric Claude Rene Rault-Verpre. Photo / Westport News
Visits to the Punakaiki Promotion Group's website have tripled this week thanks to Cedric Claude Rene Rault-Verpre. Photo / Westport News

The death of hitchhiking

Meanwhile, the story of frustrated Frenchmn continues to generate interest overseas.

It inspired an opinion piece in the travel section of the Guardian UK in which the writer mused upon "the death of hitchhiking" which she said was a modern tragedy.

Anne Perkins posed the question "Would you wait four days for a ride?"

She answered it by saying that one Frenchman did just that in New Zealand which showed the days of "mutuality and serendipity" were over.

"His inability to find a ride might mean something glummer than the seasonal effect of the Antipodean winter on the volume of tourism.

"Maybe it means that even in friendly, chilled New Zealand, drivers no longer stop for hitchhikers. And if it does, well that really does sound like the end of the analogue version of the sharing economy."

- Westport News

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