Today’s weird story is about how not to behave when traveling.
I have travelled across almost every part of New Zealand multiple times and found NZers to be warm, welcoming and kind. When I was younger, I hitched many kilometres through New Zealand.
The West coast of New Zealand is one of the remotest parts of New Zealand. There are few towns and not much traffic. I would never hitch in this part of the world as there are so few cars compared to other parts of the country!
One small fishing community is called Punakaiki. The population is only 70 (when everyone is home). I have been to Punakaiki once.
The town has no shops and only a few basic facilities. There is a beach camp and a hostel. It is famous for its Pancake Rocks and spectacular Blowholes (see video below):
A French backpacker, recently, stood by the side of the road for four days waiting to hitch a ride from Punakaiki. Locals noted that the backpacker “was standing in the wrong place to hitchhike – a corner with poor visibility and nowhere for cars to easily pull over.”
After this time, Cedric Claude Rene Rault-Verpre, 27, had a meltdown. According to locals, he “went berserk“. throwing rocks at the “Welcome to Punakaiki” sign, abusing passing motorists and lying prone on the road screaming that “New Zealanders were arseholes“.
It turns out he had not eaten for two days which no doubt explains some of his behaviour. He said that no one had even offered him water. (Always carry lots of water when hitching!).
NZ Police said they believed he was unsuccessful in getting a lift because of his aggression. They note he could have walked to the nearest town, 41 km away. Personally, I would have walked to the nearest Visitor Centre, less than a kilometre away and approached the staff at the centre and the nearby cafe for assistance in getting a ride. There are many visitors to Pancake Rocks! Or he could have gone to the hostel or campground. Someone would have got him a water.
A local man called the police out of concern that Rault-Verpre might become violent when he was being reprimanded by an older fisherman. The backpacker was lying in the middle of the road near a blind corner when the police arrived. He refused to get up and spoke to the police from a prone position.
He ended up in court, was fined $NZ 3000 fine, had his passport confiscated and was told he must stay in New Zealand until the fine is paid.
Outside court, he said “You should change the name, ‘Nazi Zealand’, not New Zealand…I’ve been to 80 countries, and I’ve been the worst parts of the US. The worst American is not an arsehole like a New Zealander.”
Lessons: Carry water and food when backpacking in remote areas do some research, be polite and respectful to people and ask for assistance.