Safe Haven from the Mayan Apocalypse? Sorry, We’re Closed

The town of Bugarach in the south of France, reportedly the only place on earth to be spared on Dec. 21st, is now closed for business

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Patrick Aventurier / Getty Images

Daily life in the village of Bugarach, which websites are claiming will be the only surviving settlement following a devastating apocalypse in December 2012.

Do you fear the apocalyptic end to humanity scheduled for Dec. 21? Well, there may be hope: a safe haven from the fast-approaching Armageddon in the form of a small, tranquil village in the south-west of France named Bugarach.

Unfortunately, it’s now closed.

For reasons that still aren’t entirely clear, several websites that have been trumpeting the coming end of the world have also named Bugarach the only place on earth that will be saved on Dec. 21st. When the town’s mayor, Jean-Pierre Delord, was alerted to this fact two years ago, his first reaction was not to rejoice in the knowledge that he and his townspeople would be spared the apocalypse but to order special security measures and plans to shut down the village in preparation for a deluge of news agencies, esotericists and Doomsday cultists.

It has been widely reported in recent years that ancient Mayan calendars predicted that the world would end on Dec. 21st, 2012. According to National Geographic, it is true that the Mayan “long count” calendar, which spans around 5,125 years, will reach the end of its cycle in December of this year. Dec. 21st will see the end of the 13th Bak’tun, which represents the end of an old cycle and the beginning of a new one. And while everyone from NASA to astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson are insisting that this doesn’t mean the end of the world any more than December 31, 1999 meant the end of modern computing, people across the globe are preparing for Armageddon. However, the question as to why the inhabitants of this tiny French village will survive unscathed remains unanswered.

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So why would the inhabitants of this tiny French village be spared? Nicolas D’Estienne d’Orves, who recently released a book on Bugarach titled The Village of the End of the World, explained in a documentary on the life of the villagers that it has been “impossible” to get to the bottom of the Mayan Bugarach rumor. Why this town? Why in Europe? “It was grabbed on to because this is a place where there’s nothing, so you can easily project your fantasies on to it. It’s like filling a balloon with air,” says the French novelist.

Bugarach is located in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France. This sleepy hamlet of 176 residents has always attracted people with more “esoteric beliefs,” Delord recently told the Guardian. For years this area of southern France has been known for folklore and magic as well as plenty of conspiracy theories. “It’s all about the mountain,” says Delord.

He’s talking about the 4,300-foot tall Pic de Bugarach, which towers over the village. It is known locally as the ‘upside-down mountain’ due to the lower layers of rocks that are inexplicably younger than those at the top of the peak. The flat-topped mountain is also reported to emit strange gurgling sounds, which has probably helped make it a prime UFO-spotting site as well. Many actually believe the mountain contains an “alien garage,” writes the Telegraph, where extraterrestrials are waiting in a massive cavity beneath the rock for the world to end.

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Delord fears that many of these Doomsday believers are planning to descend upon his small hometown in the coming weeks in an attempt to avoid what they believe is mankind’s imminent demise. Already, the numbers of hikers climbing the mountain have jumped from 10,000 in 2010 to 20,000 in 2011, writes the Guardian. So as to be completely sure of the locals’ safety, the mayor has made the decision to shut down the area to tourists for the four days prior to Dec. 21st. Meanwhile, the French government has put the anti-cult watchdog agency Miviludes on the case so as to head off any apocalyptic group activities or possible mass suicides, such as those which were carried out by the Order of the Solar Temple in the Alps between 1994-97.

Some of the locals in Bugarach are still happily taking advantage of their new worldwide fame. One local winery has an end-of-the-world vintage on sale, while a local man is renting out his home for up to $1,600 a night. “I possess a rare asset, the land of immortality,” the landowner proudly told the French newspaper Depeche du Midi.