French chateaus, picturesque rivieras and places like Mont Saint-Michel -- a landmark that is second only to the Eiffel Tower are just a few of the tourist destinations that France touts. Paris alone is reason enough to visit the museum-laden country, but for one group of New Age believers, there can only be one "city of lights."
Pic de Bugarach, a mountain popular for being the inspiration behind Jules Verne's book, Journey to the Center of the Earth, has become a temporary home to an estimated 20,000 people -- all who claim the infamous peak is an ancient launching pad that will activate on Dec. 21, 2012.
The doomsday theories are nothing new, but in an unusual twist these specific esoterics believe that the Pic de Bugarach is more than a mountain -- it is a sacred land occupied by aliens as we speak. According to their beliefs, once the apocalypse begins the aliens will reveal themselves to the patiently faithful and take them on a journey in a Noah's-ark-meets-Star Wars-voyage to another universe.
"The apocalypse we believe in is the end of a certain world and the beginning of another," one of the New Age pilgrims going only by the name "Jean" tells the paper. "A new spiritual world... the year 2012 is the end of a cycle of suffering. Bugarach is one of the major chakras of the earth, a place devoted to welcoming the energies of tomorrow."
Below is video coverage of the group covered by CNN Saturday nearly one year ago:
While the "expert" on the show above claims the mountain is a scientific anomaly, those who are the real professionals on the subject have spoken. One geologist professor at Grossmont College, who wishes to remain anonymous, informed me the peak was in fact a klippe: an erosional outlier of the nappe. In other words, an old mountain which was next to a young mountain overlapped over time -- producing one solid mountain with layers that chronologically do not match.
Regardless of the now not-so-mystical origins, the cultists remain unaffected and have gone so far as to rent or buy property in the usually small town -- one that hasn't exceeded a population limit of 200 since its establishment.
Along with his concerns about population vs. resources, the mayor of Bugarach is worried the esoterics have other plans besides sitting and waiting; he feels they may attempt a mass suicide if their original December expectations turn out to be uneventful.
In the meantime, locals who have kept a watchful eye on the extremist crowd say weird rituals have begun to take place; men and women who are either in white robes or naked frequently walk the surrounding area of the mountain.
The size of the group is expected to exceed 100,000 people throughout the year.