The Los Ajaches mountains at the south of the island bear no resemblance to how they once looked before Lanzarote was conquered by the Europeans. Vegetation once thrived on the high slopes, especially wild olive trees which were much-prized by the islanders as firewood and for making tools and weapons. With the arrival of European settlers, intensive grazing and population growth led to the disappearance of this vegetation. Perhaps it was a young native shepherd boy, quietly herding his goats on these mountains, who was the first to see the arrival of the fleet led by Juan de Bethencourt and Gadifer de la Salle – the French mercenaries who dropped anchor near the beaches of Papagayo one fateful day in 1402, hell-bent on conquering the island at the service of Henry III of Castille.
It is said that ‘Ajaches’ comes from the name of local nobleman, Hache, who betrayed the island’s King Guadarfía by revealing his whereabouts to the conquistadores. After being captured in these very mountains, the King managed to escape and flee to the centre of the island where he found Hache and killed him.
As we walk or run through these empty mountains today, we can picture them as they once were, swathed in abundant vegetation and imagine seeing the aboriginal King frantically running between the trees, desperately trying to save himself, and his people, from annihilation.