Freedom keeps him moving

IN 1978, John Cadoret packed his bags, packed in his job at a Melbourne bank and hit the road.

ON THE ROAD: Swagman John Cadoret heading north-west on the Manilla Rd this week. Mr Cadoret has been walking the inland highways for more than 35 years. Photo: Barry Smith 290714BSG09

ON THE ROAD: Swagman John Cadoret heading north-west on the Manilla Rd this week. Mr Cadoret has been walking the inland highways for more than 35 years. Photo: Barry Smith 290714BSG09

Thirty six years later, he’s still walking.

He has eschewed the trappings of modern life – no home, no car, no bank account, no mobile phone, no Medicare card. 

He lives off the grid, surviving on his own bushcraft and the kindness of passing motorists.

“You’d be surprised how many people leave fries when they throw their McDonald’s bag out the window,” the 59-year-old said.

“Sometimes I might find a 50c or $2 coin and I grab some homebrand baked beans or noodles from the next supermarket.

“There’s a few interstate truckies and grey nomads that recognise me and look after me.

“People think I’m weird but I don’t have a worry in the world ... I’ve learned to survive on the roadside.”

He carries only a transistor radio, a change of clothes and a swag and sleeps under trees or beside bushes on the side of major highways.

He walks about 15km a day – up to 25km in summer – trudging the road between Toowoomba and Ballarat. Mr Cadoret doesn’t claim government benefits and is not interested in being tied down by a job.

“I’ve got not reason to stop walking,” he said.

“My only plans are getting over the next hill or around the next bend. I’m not gonna die of blood pressure.

“I might be struggling for money, but I’m otherwise carefree.”

He’s never had a girlfriend – “I hit the road before I could get trapped by one” – and only stays in contact with his mum, brother and sister, who he sends a letter to every 18 months. Amid the roadkill, abusive motorists and discarded rubbish, Mr Cadoret has stumbled across a few gems over the years.

“It’s amazing what people throw away; I could fill a house with what I’ve found,” he said.

His most memorable find was a cache of canned food on a roadside following the rollover of a truck.

“I put half a dozen cans in my bag and had a feast that night,” he said.

The Leader stumbled upon Mr Cadoret heading north-west on Manilla Rd this week and was granted a rare interview.

“I get pulled over by journalists a fair bit but why do I need to speak to them?” he said.

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop