The Chubby Pig opened its doors in November 2018. You can find the quirky eatery, gift shop, nursery and accommodation on the Panorama Route hugging the banks of the Treur River, but there is nothing to “mourn” here. Expect good food, friendly hosts and a view of crystal waters coursing by at a pace which is guaranteed to make you slow down and relax.
Melody and Raynard Ferreira with their sons, Ayden, Levi and GC (back)
After 20 years working in the corporate world, Raynard and Melody Ferreira decided it was time for a 360 degree shift. They both have years of experience in marketing and sales, but when Melody arrived from work late one night, Raynard cooked up an idea for her to work from home. They opened a little restaurant next to the Treur River on Raynard’s family farm, 30 kilometres from Graskop towards Bourke’s Luck. The property has been in his family for four generations.
“I’m living out my father’s dream,” Raynard says while seated on the restaurant’s deck, built with his own two hands. His father envisioned opening a resort in the ‘70s on the opposite side of the river, but his plans never came to fruition. “As a teenager and even after school I never really showed interest in the farm. When I inherited the property, it really sank in,” he explains. Working and living on the farm today makes him as happy as a pig in the mud.
That is where the name, The Chubby Pig, came from. Raynard also farms with pigs, as well as peaches, apricots, figs and onions; they are planning on planting cherries too. “He absolutely loves his pigs,” Melody exclaims. “I’ve never seen someone who adores them as much as he does. I often see him scratching them behind their ears.”
Melody still works from home as a sales executive for InsureAfrica, while helping Raynard build The Chubby Pig brand and run the business. She never thought of managing a restaurant, but instead had an idea for a padstal. Her mom, June du Plessis, started the Pampoen Paleis in 1979, situated where White River’s Bagdad Centre is today. She sold fruits, vegetables, curios and jams. “Raynard came up with the idea to open a restaurant instead. We both knew I could make yummy food, but to cook for the public felt like a step too far,” Melody laughs.
Besides running the kitchen, she also produces and sources products for their gift shop. She makes shoes and dresses and aims to stock the shop with her accessory and clothing brand, Melo. She also has a creative flare for decorating; two out of their five cottages are ready for visitors (all five will be complete for their first wedding in October) and these chalets are
furnished according to botanical themes. The succulent cottage sports shades of green, while the protea option has splashes of pink and red brightening up the cozy space.
On the restaurant deck, vintage tins are used as pot planters and after a morning walk Melody would come back with a posy of flowers and plants gathered from the veld. “We are a creative team,” Melody explains. She decorates and Raynard focuses on the construction. He built the deck, the restaurant and the cottages with a friend; and by using corrugated iron it feels like you are stepping back into the gold rush history this area is known for. They have even found artefacts like koekepanne on their farm and an ox wagon route used by Voortrekkers is believed to pass through their property.
Besides the area’s history, the surrounding scenery is also a big drawcard for visitors, but the
remoteness has its cons. “One of the disadvantages of living and doing business here, is the reception – it is terrible,” Melody admits. When her friends finally reach her on her phone, they respond with “thank goodness, you have signal today!” Tourists and city folk don’t seem to mind the lack of reception though; it means they can have a peaceful night without phone calls, WhatsApp or social media.
Grocery shopping is another issue. Quickly popping into the shops is out of the question and they have to plan ahead to avoid unnecessary trips. “That is why we started our own organic garden; fresh produce like salad is an item we run out of quickly,” Melody explains. Besides their efforts to live off the land, The Chubby Pig and the family’s home are off the grid too. They use solar energy for lights and appliances, and gas for the cooking and showers.
“To get your kids to school can also be a bit of a mission,” Raynard recalls another challenge. Their one son goes to school in Sabie and is dropped off in Graskop to take the bus. Luckily this means Melody can stop by the shops every weekday, while also making use of better reception to check her emails. During school holidays – and while Mom and Dad tend to customers – the kids play on the deck and ride their bikes down the red sandy road leading up to the restaurant.“They rarely get bored,” Melody smiles. “They’re always busy with something and they aren’t interested in phones, tablets or the television.”
“It gets difficult at times,” Raynard admits. “We feel guilty when the kids want attention while we are busy with customers. But this is our bread and butter; and we are still building our name.” While working in the corporate industry, he says he felt like he worked himself to the bone, only for others to build up their nest egg. “This place gives us the opportunity to be our own bosses,” Raynard adds. “Everything we tackle here, we try to do ourselves and with cash to avoid debt.”
The Chubby Pig already provides a much-needed reprieve from the hustle and bustle of city life, but the couple have even more plans to improve their quaint weekend getaway. Raynard is going to build a floating jetty for the river and grass will be planted on the slope between the water and the cottages. They have grand plans for a kiddies play area, a chapel for weddings and a honeymoon suite nestled among gargantuan trees on the banks of the Treur.
There is a wide one-kilometre stretch on the river, ideal for rowing up and down; you might just spot a fish eagle, kingfisher or an otter swimming by. Farther down the Treur there is a small waterfall and huge rock pool, ideal for their guests to enjoy sunsets. “We would absolutely recommend this type of move in business and lifestyle to other families,” says Melody. “It provides freedom and tranquillity, especially if you are used to living in a city.” They want their customers to feel at peace here. “That’s why I am thinking of putting up a sign,” Melody adds. “If you are in a hurry, this might not be the place for you.”
Melody Ferreira on 082-654-4819 or Raynard’s on 073-991-7631 or
Text and photographer: MIA LOUW