Walking the Chinese footsteps from Robe to Ballarat

A FATHER and son team will hit the road on foot as part of a gruelling 15-day hike from South Australia to Ballarat to retrace the steps of their Chinese ancestors.

Ballarat residents Charles and Oscar Zhang will depart from the South Australian town of Robe tomorrow, where they will start the 480 kilometre trek that was walked by Chinese immigrants in search of gold in the 1850s.

Armed with little more than a backpack and camping gear, the duo will average about 30 kilometres each day in their quest to make it back to Ballarat.

And with searing temperatures forecast as high as 38 degrees for the start of their journey, they will certainly have their work cut out for them.

Charles, 56, said he had always wanted to complete the walk, having forever been fascinated by the story of Chinese immigrants.

From 1857, the Victorian Government imposed a poll tax on Chinese arrivals, forcing almost 20,000 people to land at Robe in south-east South Australia before setting out to walk to Ballarat.

"It's a significant story for the Chinese people who really had a big impact on Victoria," Charles said.

"I love hearing the stories of these people and am hoping to hear even more along the way. I'm always looking for history and there are so many stories out there that need to be told."

Aside from feasting on the odd pub meal in country towns along the way, the Zhang's will toil in very similar fashion to those back in the 1850s.

They will carry their tent and camping equipment, forced to battle the elements for the entire trek.

"We want a feeling of how hard it would have been for the Chinese who did the walk," Charles said.

"I've done a bit of training and Oscar (16-years-old) plays football so he will be alright - maybe he will have to carry me."

They are due to arrive back in Ballarat on December 29.

Charles, the president of Ballarat Chinese Australian Cultural Society, will post regular updates of the trip on www.chineseballarat.org.au

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