“The shining mountain hides a village that tries not to die”, describes Romain Lescurieux
The end of the world in 2012 did not happen. However, hundreds of people gathered in Bugarach, a small town in the Aude (11) in the south-west of France, which was founded as a refuge by some apocalyptic theories. The reason ? The peak (or Pech) of Bugarach will be a mystical point of escape from Armageddon.
At that time, two young journalists, Romain Lescurieux (former journalist at 20 minutes) and Antonin Vabre, who are interested in the proportions that occur around the world, went there on December 21, 2012. After ten years, they returned to Bugarach to immerse themselves in the daily life of the 200 inhabitants this. time like in the bowels of the mountain. They say this in their book The upside down mountain, a twists and turns fantasy expedition*, which comes out this Wednesday. Behind UFOs, shamanism and a cosmo-telluric plot, they tell the story of the life of a village hit by the desert, unemployment and oblivion.
In 2012, when you were journalism students, you went to Bugarach, where the end of the world was announced. Nothing happened. Why come back after ten years?
We were fascinated at the time by the excitement surrounding this event and its magnitude. It is everywhere, on the continuous news channels that have just been born, on social networks… Imagine, three hundred journalists from around the world, hundreds of gendarmes, an elite unit, the Red Cross mobilized . All this knowing that nothing will happen.
As journalists, we have seen similar situations many times. What we call “Bugarach syndrome” between us. Phenomena where nothing happens but the world talks about it. Bugarach always remains in our heads. We felt unfinished. We need to understand how we can get into this kind of situation. We waited for the excitement to die down, the village appeared in the news and we returned there with three questions in mind: how did stories of the end of the world, UFOs and the Mayan calendar collide in this small town in the South. of France? Where did the prophecy come from that announces that the people present at this summit, today December 21, 2012, will be saved? And how did this rumor get around the world?
Have you found the answers to these questions?
Mainly, yes. For two years, we have traced back the story’s origins through word of mouth. After more than a hundred interviews, we followed the thread from the 2000s to the 1970s and observed how everything added to legends, a rumor, a belief… to arrive at the end of the world.
This is how you discover that Bugarach is not just 2012…
Not allowed. It doesn’t come out of a hat by accident on a good day. Le Pech has a rich history, if only for the last century. And it has been attracting the curious in search of esotericism for decades. Many myths and legends surround this mountain. Some speak of a UFO hangar within it, others lend it cosmo-telluric qualities. The New Age, this movement that began in the 1970s, brought many followers back to the top.
In your book, we feel that some of the inhabitants are tired of these legends and the fame they bring. How were you received on your return?
It was confusing at first. There is a real weariness that comes with all these stories. The first journalists arrived in 2010, attracted by the excitement surrounding the phenomenon. And often, the inhabitants are depicted as visionaries. There is confusion made among tourists in search of esotericism. We feel that the inhabitants love their mountains and their land. But they were still traumatized. And we, on our way back, put a coin back into the machine. Pech is both pride and a curse.
How is this a curse?
Because behind the mountain that attracts followers of cosmic energies and treasure hunters by the thousands, there is a village that struggles not to die. About 10,000 people come to Le Pech every year. Some pay 2,000 euros on organized themed trips. But they usually only stay for a day and never go to the village, which is why they do not benefit from the economic benefits.
The mayor fought to prevent his town from becoming a kind of ufological Lourdes with plastic UFOs for sale on every street corner. But he still wants to attract tourists, even for a night or two. To revive the economy. There is no store anymore.
And while the municipality juggles a very small budget to keep Bugarach alive, they are called a village of madmen…
Yes, because through your book, we discovered that despite its fame, it is a town in poverty like thousands of others in France…
This is also what we want to highlight. Aude is one of the most difficult departments in France. And Bugarach was hit, like many others, by desertification, unemployment, deindustrialization. The young people went to town. There is no doctor for miles. The only class in the school is hanging by a thread… We want to put Bugarach in a social context and retrace the history of the village with the memory of the elders, during the Second World War, during the rural exodus , through the years 1980 and 1990. See what lies behind the shining mountain.
Even ten years after the fake end of the world, is esotericism still present in the region?
Still. With Covid, it has even experienced a resurgence. There is a great search for well-being and, above all, for answers to existential questions. In this context, we see many detox healings, fasting, “sacred feminine” workshops. We come to “recharge” with the energies released by the peak. This may seem absurd, but we live in an age where many people are looking for some meaning in everything. We see many women from privileged backgrounds looking for a little magic. Esotericism is very feminine because 8 out of 10 followers are women. Men are more concerned with ufology and treasure hunting.
So much so that you two went to the heart of the mountain during a caving expedition to check if the rumors about him are true?
Yes, because it is the center of fantasy. Over the years, the interior of this mountain has always given rise to many legends. Treasures, UFO hangar, vortex, passage to a parallel world… We did our job as journalists and we went there to demystify the matter and with the desire to see with our own eyes the kilometers of the gallery that is there, and all the history of caving on the site echoes the history of the village. This is a mountain that, before becoming a place of concern for the end of the world, has already been of interest to scientists and paleontologists for what it is. An upside down mountain. We want to start a scientific process.
And what did you find in the end?
A cul-de-sac! Because the exploration is not over yet. And the elders are waiting for a new generation of young adventurous speleologists to come and continue the research. In the meantime, all fantasy is still possible.