John Cadoret has spent 40 years living off the land as a swagman

A long journey: John 'the swagman' Cadoret has been to many places and seen many things over the past four decades. Photo: Matt Attard

A long journey: John 'the swagman' Cadoret has been to many places and seen many things over the past four decades. Photo: Matt Attard

ONCE a jolly swagman worked at a Melbourne bank, tired of his office job, camped behind a desk.

So he packed up his things and he headed for the open road, 40 years on and he is yet to take a rest.

Born in 1954 in the Western Victorian town of Minyip, John Cadoret was in his early twenties when he decided to leave his shared flat and party life behind, simply because he wanted to.

“I don’t regret anything. Regrets are useless. You just hopefully learn. I have learnt to take each day as it comes,” he told the Port News when journalist Matt Attard found him in the shade next to the Oxley Highway as he was passing through Wauchope.

“I didn’t really decide to do this, I just took a break from life and fell into it. I decided an office job wasn’t what I wanted. I didn’t know what I wanted.”

A three month holiday saw John, also known as the highway man, hitch his way around Australia. At the end, he decided to keep on moving.

Heavy load: John Cadoret with the many kilograms of food, water and supplies that he carries with him. Photo: Matt Attard

Heavy load: John Cadoret with the many kilograms of food, water and supplies that he carries with him. Photo: Matt Attard

So does he miss his cosy flat? His shower, his bath, his toilet, his toothbrush?

“There really isn’t much I miss. You just get use to living without stuff,” he said.

“I have learnt contentment. I’m content with life. I just aim for the next hill, the next corner and if I don’t get there I know I will eventually.

“Some of the older people tell me about stories of a lot of people doing this kind of stuff years ago, but maybe they didn’t have a choice.

“Like I said, I don’t have any regrets with my life. I’m not paying off anything and I’m happy.”

In the early days he use to walk up to 40 kilometres in a day, but often it is around 10 to 15kms.

On hot days he finds a spot in the shade to read. Reading is his ultimate hobby, and given the most high tech piece of equipment he has is a radio that he seldom uses, it is no wonder.

He also enjoys a bottle of coke whenever people bring him a treat, but he can never have enough water in the summer months.

He lugs around a solid 30 to 40kg, and the generosity of people all over Australia ensures he is never without the necessities.

“It proves that everyone is alright I guess. Especially in the last three years with this Facebook stuff tracking me, people remember me,” he said.

“I’m grateful for people helping me, as long as they can accept sometimes that I have too much and I have to turn them down.”

John lost track of his family – both his parents and a brother and sister – many years ago.

Due to his incredible story making waves around the country, he was reunited with them in the early 2000s.

“I write them letters and I make a couple of phone calls a month from a phone box,” he said.

“Mum was a bit grumpy when I first got back into contact with her but she is in a nursing home now and we keep in contact.”

Content with life: John Cadoret, also known as the highway man, says he is happy with the life he has chosen. Photo: Matt Attard

Content with life: John Cadoret, also known as the highway man, says he is happy with the life he has chosen. Photo: Matt Attard

Remarkably he has not seen a doctor in 40 years. Nor has he got a medical number or any identification.

In all of his time living off the land, he has only faced off against a few boares and snakes, walking away unscathed.

“Apart from that I haven’t had anything to worry about. I’ve sidestepped the occasional vehicle but that is rare,” he said.

“If the body holds up I have no plans to stop. Personally, I’d probably be a bit off dying out here somewhere and someone will have to come and pick me up and do the paperwork.

“But I’m not worried about any of that. I’ve had a few aches and pains but I just walk it off.”

He is on route to Walcha, eventually aiming for Tamworth.

“But my favourite place is the Western Plains,” he said.

“If people want to stop and chat feel free, but I do carry a lot of stuff so if I tell someone I don’t need anything please don’t get offended.

“As long as I have some bedding, a few tarps then I’m happy. And I want people to know that I am in good spirits and I am happy.” 

This story Forty years a swagman first appeared on Port Macquarie News.