Tag Archives: Gran Canaria

Tenerife: Nov - Dec 2018 Gofio on the supermarket shelves

Trail food: Gofio

Visit many restaurants on the Canary Islands and you will find a small dish or bowl of pale finely ground flour in the centre. This is gofio, roasted and milled, made from wheat or varieties of maize. Just occasionally it is made from other plants such as barley or even beans. Gofio is a good quality carbohydrate, and quite high in protein and fibre. It is low in fat and sugar and high in minerals.

Gofio can be purchased in handy 25g individual servings, perfect for a breakfast dish

Gofio can be purchased in handy 25g individual servings, perfect for a breakfast dish

The word Gofio was used by the original inhabitants of Gran Canaria for roasted and ground barley and the original natives of Tenerife, the Guanches, called this ahoren, where it became a staple food. Eventually gofio became standard across the archipelago for a flour made with any cereal or legume. That found on Tenerife is most usually derived from wheat with a little added salt. Fuerteventura favours ground chickpeas. All of them are a great source of carbohydrate.

Gofio in centre of restaurant table. Bodega Monje, Tenerife

Gofio in centre of restaurant table. Bodega Monje, Tenerife. A spoonful can be added to many meals, particularly to thicken more liquid dishes

Gofio is wholemeal, all parts of the cereal are utilised. Roasting prior to milling is common to all gofio, which has the benefit of killing mould and parasites, increasing shelf life and purportedly improving flavour. This process also has the welcome effect of making the flour easily digestible, suiting those with delicate digestive systems, the elderly, children and fortuitously, hikers!

So, if looking for suitable hiking foods while traversing the Canary Islands, perhaps on the GR131 long distance trail, keep gofio in mind. It has satiating powers meaning that hunger does not appear for some time due to its slow absorption, so is also suited for diabetics. It is not an unpleasant taste but Three Points of the Compass finds its distinctive smell the most noticeable characteristic.

Most supermarkets on the larger Canary Islands will have shelves groaning beneath a wide range of Gofio. Tenerife, 2018

Most supermarkets on the larger Canary Islands will have shelves groaning beneath a wide range of Gofio. Some will be milled from pure maize or wheat, others will be mixes of ground ingredients that could include barley, rye chickpeas or even beans. Photographed Tenerife, 2018

A simple breakfast- gofio with milk and honey

Breakfast of gofio with milk and honey

Gofio is not a dish in itself, it is more usually an ingredient to be added to other dishes. Gofio can be sprinkled on a breakfast cereal or simply mixed with milk. Tins or tubes of condensed milk make a handy and tasty addition too.

Gofio can be added to fish and meat stews to thicken these. Adding thick fish stock (or occasionally meat stock) to gofio results in the dish Escaldón, found as a starter in some restaurants. Probably the best approximation of this that could be achieved on trail would be using a fish stock cube or fish stock pot, which would likely see a native canarian throw their arms up in horror. Three Points of the Compass does like to finish a days hiking with an Oxo cube in boiled water prior to an evening meal, not a particularly healthy option unless carrying out strenuous activity as these beef stock cubes are pretty high in sodium. But on trail I find this both refreshing and rehydrating while replacing some lost salts, it was time to see what resulted from adding gofio to the mix…

25g of Gofio will mix to a smooth paste with a little cold water easily. Topped up with boiling water and with an added Oxo, this makes a satisfying light liquid drink on trail during a days hike or to add lost salts at the end of the day

25g of Gofio will mix to a smooth paste with a little cold water easily. Topped up with boiling water and with an added Oxo, this makes a satisfying light liquid drink on trail during a days hike or to add lost salts at the end of the day

Condensed milk, in various containers, is usually found on supermarket shelves beside packs of gofio. Gran Canaria

Condensed milk, in various containers, is usually found on supermarket shelves beside packs of gofio. Gran Canaria

Gofio is, or was, almost a staple for many Canary Island children- a bowl of gofio mixed with milk being consumed before school. Many older inhabitants will share fond memories of growing up with it and it remains a favourite. It would make a good alternative to porridge/oatmeal if backpacking in the Canaries. Or seek out Gofio de Avena which is made from milled roasted oats so not far removed from porridge itself. Milk powder or a tube of condensed milk could easily be packed along, and the dish supplemented with nuts or dried fruits.

Simple breakfast dish of gofio, milk and figs

Simple breakfast dish of gofio, milk and figs

Gofio on in Gran Canaria supermarket, stacked beside sugars and condensed milk

Gofio in Gran Canaria supermarket, stacked beside sugars and condensed milk. The two are a popular mixture in nearby western Sahara due to the Spanish influence there.

Gofio de Millo (roasted maize/corn) provides around 387Kcal, 8.6g protein and 73g carbohydrate per 100g. Gofio de Trigo (roasted wheat) provides some 371Kcal, 10.8g protein and 81.6g carbohydrate per 100g. Gofio de Avena (roasted oats) provides 400kcal, 13.1g protein and 70.6g carbohydrate per 100g.

Gofio de Millo is made from ground and roasted corn (actually maize) while Gofio de Trigo is roasted wheat

Gofio de Millo is made from ground and roasted corn (actually maize) while Gofio de Trigo is roasted wheat

Gofio can be easily found in almost all Canary Island supermarkets in bags of various sizes. The 25g individual serving size are convenient as a single breakfast. Condensed milk is usually found on adjacent shelves. While a little difficult to find away from the Canaries, should you come across gofio, do try it.

An easily found foodstuff if hiking on the Canary Islands. Gofio, in its many guises and sizes, can easily be packed along with milk powder or a tube of condensed milk

An easily found foodstuff if hiking on the Canary Islands. Gofio, in its many guises and sizes, can easily be packed along with milk powder or a tube of condensed milk

campsite on Gran Canaria, closed due to recent fires

Trail talk: Official campsites on Gran Canaria

Three Points of the Compass does like to disappear off to one of the Canary Islands once in a while. Not only are they all a fantastic place for a holiday, be it alone or with family, the hiking is often superb. If I get round to it I’ll try and write a little on this in a future blog. One aspect of the Natural Parks in Gran Canaria that I have yet to experience however are any of the official campsites.

official campsite, closed due to recent fires

official campsite, closed due to recent fires

Three Points of the Compass hiking Cruce de la Data, Gran Canaria in October 2019

Three Points of the Compass hiking Cruce de la Data, Gran Canaria in October 2019

Anyone visiting Gran Canaria soon, possibly to hike part or all of the GR 131, the 560 km (348 mile) that crosses the seven islands, may not have heard of the state run campsites to be found in its heart. You may come across one or two if driving across the mountainous interior but there is surprisingly little to be found on these. Ask in most tourist information centres and they will look at you blankly.

This is a bit of a shame as these are invariably welcome and shaded camp sites for hikers, protected from strong sun and occasional strong winds. And they are free to use.

Investigating the procedure, it took me a while to hunt down the municipal offices in Las Palmas where permits are obtained. Once found, everyone was very polite and efficient. Handily pointing out the ticket machine from which a very necessary ‘queue’ ticket is obtained. The official at her desk however was very different- curt and dismissive, there was no way that any permits were being issued for camping, fair enough, I had heard of the fires, but she seemed cross that I would even consider hiking in such areas, as to tie-ing her down to when sites might re-open, no way! The best I got was probably by December 2020. But I can see that some sites have already re-opened.

Be sure to pick up your ticket on entering Cabildo Insular de Gran Canaria, it will save you queuing twice!

Be sure to pick up your ticket on entering Cabildo Insular de Gran Canaria, it will save you queuing twice!

Ticket machine at entrance to municipal building in Las Palmas

Ticket machine at entrance to municipal building in Las Palmas

The GR 131 stretches 566 kilometres across the seven Canary Islands

The GR 131 stretches 560 kilometres across the seven Canary Islands

While free, a permit has to be obtained to use the camping sites. You are not permitted to simply rock up and use the sites without a permit though sites can be reserved for up to three days. There are wardens and they do visit the sites on a frequent basis. Permits can be ordered online, and picked up in person from the Office of Information and Citizen Services (Oficina de Informacion y attencion Ciudadana) Cabildo Insular de Gran Canaria. This is found, with a bit of searching, in Las Palmas.

Campsite near Llanos de Garanon. Facilities at these sites vary from the very basic to provision of w/c's, drinking water, parking and tables and benches, even brick barbecues in places

Campsite near Llanos de Garanon. Facilities at these sites vary from the very basic to provision of w/c’s, drinking water, parking and tables and benches, even brick barbecues in places

Simple but free campsite on Gran Canaria

Simple but free campsite on Gran Canaria

When I last visited (autumn 2019) all Gran Canaria campsites had been closed following recent severe fires. There was also a blanket ban on any fires at all even in the roadside picnic areas. This is not surprising considering the widespread devastation that had resulted. However I note that a handful are beginning to be reopened. If you are planning on using any of the campsites, up to date information can be found online.

Trails mostly remain open following a fire but it can be pretty horrible walking through ash and charred pine and cacti. It is remarkable how one side of a hill will be burnt out while across the valley or over the brow, it hasn’t been touched. In 2019 over 9000 inhabitants were evacuated from more than fifty villages. Edges or more of villages were burnt out and I am sure that some towns and villages will have seen heart wrenching loss of livelihood and possession. However building work springs up, and life, largely, goes on. The tourist pound is important and visitors are encouraged, so long as respectful.

Segregated camping pitches. The ground is mostly hard and rocky and can be hard to drive pegs into

Segregated camping pitches. The ground is mostly hard and rocky and can be hard to drive pegs into

Most sites segregate hikers camping from those arriving in cars and vans. Large boards situated near the entrances explain where you may, and where you may not, camp. There are few officials on site, if any, and arrivals are expected to position themselves on trust. This needless to say leads to some people camping or parking just about wherever they want. Though not usually the locals, they respect the rules.

There are a wealth of hiking trails across Gran Canaria, boards showing many of these can be found adjacent to many of the state provided camp sites and picnic areas

There are a wealth of hiking trails across Gran Canaria, boards showing many of these can be found adjacent to many of the state provided camp sites and picnic areas

There a number of paths that loop out or pass each of the campsites on Gran Canaria, maps are shown on large boards at each site, or simply pick up a copy of David Brawn’s Gran Canaria Tour and Trail map. Paddy Dillon has also written a series of island guides detailing walks. Most recently he has completed a Cicerone guide to the entire GR 131.

Due to recent and extensive fires, all fires were banned in all campsites on Gran Canaria

Due to recent and extensive fires, all fires were recently banned in all campsites on Gran Canaria. This is slowly being relaxed

Note that wild camping is illegal, though you can camp on land with the owners permission. But try and track down the relevant owner of a rocky, tree covered slope, just off a path, as evening draws in! By all accounts, wild camping without permission does occur. Just note that it is frowned upon.

running water at state provided campsite

running water at state provided campsite

Gran Canaria is a great place to hike and Three Points of the Compass looks forward to his next visit to this island. Hopefully the recent fire damage will have been overgrown. It is remarkable how the natural flora bounces back, as do the villagers in their fire damaged abodes. If you do visit, please take care with any fires, it is a dry island and carelessness leads inevitably to further devastation.

Useful facilities provided at campsite on Gran Canaria. It is along way to the nearest bin from here....

Useful facilities provided at campsite on Gran Canaria. It is a long way to the nearest bin from here….