In the shadow of France's most mysterious mountain lies the village of Bugarach, which doomsayers claim will be the only plot of land to be spared when our world comes to an abrupt end on December 21.
Eight centuries after Pope Innocent III launched a crusade to rout the Cathar heresy out of Languedoc, the rocky outpost of Bugarach is once again under siege.
On Wednesday, police closed all roads leading up to the village, located some 20 km southwest of Carcassonne, at the foot of the Pyrenees.
The Bugarach apocalypse story is the bizarre fruit of an obscure Mayan calendar due to expire on Dec 21, 2012, and a modern-day Internet rumour. As with any good rumour, it’s pretty impossible to get to the bottom of where and how it actually began.
Several Bugarach residents told us the town’s mayor, Jean-Pierre Delord, initially played the apocalypse card to deflect criticism from a grand project to set up wind turbines in the area. We decided to play it safe and delay quizzing the already exasperated mayor until after doomsday.
While French police are busy setting up roadblocks, other “doomsday destinations” have appeared on the Apocalypse watchers’ radar. So if you can’t make it to Bugarach on Dec. 21, try the villages of Sirince in Turkey or Cisternino in Italy. And if the spiralling cost of accommodation is a problem, just go pitch a tent on Serbia’s Mount Rjanj or any pyramid-shaped mountain.
It seems heresy has returned to Bugarach, nicknamed "Doomsday destination" ever since online scaremongers drew on an ancient Mayan prophecy to claim that the little village's 200 or so inhabitants would be the only survivors of an impending cataclysm.
Of course the Mayans famously failed to foresee their own demise, at the hands of Spanish conquistadors. But their claim that the world would come to an end on December 21 still has many believers - and the people of Bugarach are determined to keep these "hippies" and "new agers" at bay.
As our team walked into Bugarach on Tuesday evening, the talk of the town was all about “hippy cults” and mass suicides.
“You haven’t seen the hippies yet, but they’re all around us!” said a local named Andre.
“One of my friends recently went hunting in the forest near Bugarach and he suddenly came across a man with very long hair… definitely a guy waiting for the end of the world. Pity my friend didn’t shoot him!”, chuckled Andre.
As police deployed all around Bugarach, we came across a handful of visitors who had parked their camping-cars in the tiny two-street village before the official shutdown came into force at midday on December 19.
One of them, beer in hand, asked us what had happened to all the “mad people” who wanted to witness the end of the world. Apparently, the fact that he had just driven more than 1,000 kilometres from Brussels was not enough to qualify him as one of the "mad people".
Perhaps what he had in mind was the likes of Abdel-Jesus, a bizarre alien clad in a green suit who greeted a Japanese TV crew at the village gates with prophesies of doom. After all, the mysterious Pic de Bugarach that towers over the village has been known for centuries to house aliens in cavities beneath the rock.
The Pic de Bugarach, a lonely peak shrouded in mystery, is known as the “upside down mountain” because the rocks at the top are millions of years older than the layers below. For the doomsayers, that explains why aliens chose it as a giant UFO garage.
It might look and move like a French police helicopter… But the discerning eyes will recognise an UFO.
FRANCE 24 journalist Charlotte Boitiaux greets the first E.T. to have landed in Bugarach before the end of the world. Going by the name of “Abdul-Jesus”, the alien warns residents to be ready by 6am on Dec. 21, "preferably drunk", to be scooped up by a flying saucer.
Bugarach elders prepare for their traditional Christmas party, comfortable in the knowledge that they alone will survive the apocalypse.
A sign reading that the Bugarach town hall will "exceptionally" be closed on Dec. 21. Pehaps it should have said "indefinitely"?
Jean, a local farmer, is pouring red wine from a bottle labelled “Bugarach, 21/12/2012 - End of the World, I was there”. He has but two more days to offload the 200 bottles in stock.
The End of the World bar – a fancy name for a tent with no heating that shelters the handful of visitors who made it to Bugarach before the blockade.
Date created : 2012-12-19