Beginning in 2000, the small French village of Bugarach, population 189, began receiving visits from “esoterics”—mystic believers who had concluded that the local mountain, Pic de Bugarach, was the ideal location to weather the transformative events of 2012.
In 2011, the local mayor, Jean-Pierre Delord, began voicing fears to the international press that the small town would be overwhelmed by an influx of thousands of visitors in 2012, even suggesting he might call in the army. ”We’ve seen a huge rise in visitors”, Delord told The Independent in March 2012. “Already this year more than 20,000 people have climbed right to the top, and last year we had 10,000 hikers, which was a significant rise on the previous 12 months. They think Pic de Bugarach is ‘un garage à ovnis’ [a garage for UFOs].
The villagers are exasperated: the exaggerated importance of something which they see as completely removed from reality is bewildering. After 21 December, this will surely return to normal.” In December 2012, the French government placed 100 police and firefighters around both Bugarach and Pic de Bugarach, limiting access to potential visitors. Ultimately, only about 1000 visitors appeared at the height of the “event”. Two raves were foiled, 12 people had to be turned away from the peak, and 5 people were arrested for carrying weapons. Jean-Pierre Delord was criticised by members of the community for failing to take advantage of the media attention and promote the region.