The adventure of a lifetime for The Travelling Jackaroo

It’s been three years since this young man and his trusty old tractor hit the road for an epic adventure that’s seen him raise over $225,000 for charity.

And it sure has been one hell of a ride for Sam Hughes – better known as The Travelling Jackaroo – who at just 21 years of age, has already achieved so much.

When he last chatted to Big Rigs, he was only 18 and just a few weeks into his trip – still not completely sure of what to expect.

Since then, his adventures have seen him gain quite the following along the way, with his Facebook page now topping 210,000 followers. Hughes had to learn on the road and has gained quite a bit of mechanical knowledge. He also got his HC truck licence in December too.

Hughes set off from his hometown of Maleny, Queensland, in March 2021, driving his 1957 Chamberlain 9G tractor on a journey that has seen him travel the length and breadth of Queensland, the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia – with plans to visit the remaining states throughout 2024.

His set-up certainly stands out, with the tractor pulling a trailer with a motorbike and car inside, and carrying a boat and a plane on top.

“Outlandish” is how The Travelling Jackaroo describes his 1957 Chamberlain 9G tractor set-up. Image: The Travelling Jackaroo

The aim of the trip was to raise money for his three chosen charities: the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Drought Angels and Dolly’s Dream – and to raise awareness for mental health. He set out to raise a total of $250,000 and he’s already so close, just $25,000 shy of his ultimate goal.

“I’d like to imagine the tractor has helped spark conversations around mental health. The reason it’s been built the way it has and it stands out so much is because it starts conversations by being that outlandish,” said Hughes.

Hughes has raised over $225,000, which has been donated to three charities: the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Drought Angels and Dolly’s Dream. Image: The Travelling Jackaroo

So far, Hughes has travelled over 20,000 kilometres – and he anticipates he’ll clock over 25,000 kilometres by the time he finishes the trip and begins working towards his next endeavour, but more on that later.

It’s quite a bit further than the original route he’d mapped out, which was only 14,500 kilometres.

“I originally went from the Sunshine Coast to Perth, doing no more than 35km/h so it took a very long time. And there’s no power steering or air con either in the old girl,” Hughes said.

Over Christmas, the 21-year-old spent some time back home on the family farm in Maleny, Queensland. Image: The Travelling Jackaroo

“The plan changed a little bit when I got to Port Augusta and decided to go back up to Queensland, then head up to the NT to go for my truck licence. It’s a handy skill to have; something I think most people should have if they can afford to get it.”

And how has the tractor held up? “Touch wood, it’s been pretty good. I’ve had a few hiccups but the Chamberlain is a pretty rough old reliable fella,” he added.

While the tractor mostly required just the “regular maintenance sort of stuff”, Hughes told of how the engine blew while he was in the middle of the outback.

“The old one blew up between Geraldton and Perth. I blew an oil line and that blew it to pieces. The new engine came courtesy of Geraldton Towing. They swapped it out for a truck motor – a Perkins Phaser.”

While the trip has mostly been a positive, Hughes does admit, “It has had its ups and downs – there have been some really long points. But it’s been an education. I’d say I probably learnt more in the past three years than I did in all my other years. I left home not knowing much, but I’ve been learning as I go. I got to meet a lot of people, raised a lot money for charity and have made contacts all over Australia.

“It’s the knowledge that I’ve gained and people that I’ve met.

“You see all these amazing places too but when you pull up and get to have a yarn, that’s the best part.”

Undertaking such a grand adventure at such a young age, we asked how his parents reacted when he first broke the news.

“It went down like a lead balloon,” he laughed. “They knew they couldn’t really stop me, but a lot of people, including some of my family, thought I’d quickly turn around and come back. But I kept going and my family has been incredibly supportive. They’re really proud of me for what I do.

“When I first started, I didn’t think it’d get the support I’ve got. I was just going to plod along and hoped I’d be able to get some donations. I’ve been doing this for so long now that my camp is pretty much my home. When I go home, I miss being in my camp. When I’m on the road, I miss my family.”

So what is it that has kept him going for three years? “It’s just the driving force to help people. That’s what keeps me going.”

In recent months, Hughes has been working as a tilt truck driver to save up for the next leg of his trip. Image: The Travelling Jackaroo

For the last few months, Hughes has taken a temporary hiatus from his tractor travels, working as a tilt truck driver for Berry Springs Mechanical in Darwin, as he saves up some coin for the next leg of the trip.

“I’ve just clocked in over 100 call outs and over 10,000 kilometres in the tilt truck. I’ve been shifting everything from cars to containers and doing roadside assistance work like batteries and tyres. It can be long hours but I enjoy the work. Everyday there’s a new challenge and something to keep the brain ticking along,” explained Hughes.

“I love driving the truck – it’s some of the best work I’ve done.

“With the roadside assistance, if someone breaks down in the middle of nowhere, we’re who they call. It’s a good job.”

Hughes and his tractor are due to return to the road around late February/early March. “Hopefully in the next couple of months I’ll get to Adelaide, then Victoria, go over to Tasmania, head back through Victoria, up through NSW and then back up to Queensland.”

In December, Hughes also secured his HC truck licence. Image: The Travelling Jackaroo

The long-term vision is to finish the trip by the end of 2024, so he can spend 2025 building a mobile museum, which he can then take on the road in 2026.

“The museum will focus on the Aussie battlers – on the people who built the country including our truckies and the transport industry,” Hughes explained.

“I’m thinking of building it into a trailer, so it’ll be a walk-through design and then I’ll transport it around the country on the back of a truck – that’s why I needed to upgrade my truck licence. It’s also a handy thing to have if I want to spend some time driving trucks.”

Hughes added that once he retires his tractor set up from the road, the plan is to have it on display in a museum. “I’ve been in talks with one museum which has said they would potentially take it,” Hughes said.

1 Comment

  1. Must have been his first day on the road when I seen him at BP service station at Kilcoy in Queensland only just down the road from Manley I wished him good luck on his trip
    It’s wonderful to see him and have wonder how he has been travelling
    Have seen things from time to time about him and his journey
    All I can say Keep it up son and enjoy life

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend