Diehard doomsayers hunkered down to await the apocalypse yesterday, but most people took a lighthearted view of the Mayan “prophecy” of the world’s destruction, laying on stunts and parties to while away the end.
“If you’re in an underground bunker with a lifetime’s supply of baked beans, how stupid do you feel now?” asked one person on Twitter, which saw dozens of posts every minute joking about the failure of the world to end.
In the southern French village of Bugarach — rumored to be one of the few places that will be spared when the end comes — dozens of journalists from across the world were bitterly disappointed at the lack of New Age fanatics to interview.
Police had wrongly anticipated an influx of visitors and blocked access to the village and the nearby Pic de Bugarach, a mountain which some say will open on the last day and aliens will emerge with spaceships to save nearby humans.
Hundreds of reporters also wandered aimlessly around the tiny village of Sirince in Turkey, hoping to grab a mystic taking refuge there.
Doomsayers identified Sirince — said to be the site from which the Virgin Mary ascended to heaven — as a safe haven that will be spared destruction thanks to the positive energy flowing through it.
And in Serbia, a pyramid-shaped mountain believed by some to be a source of unusual electromagnetic waves that could shield it from catastrophe, attracted record numbers of visitors.
Yesterday marked the end of an era that lasted more than 5,000 years, according to the Mayan “long count” calendar. Some believe the date, which coincides with the winter solstice, marks the end of the world as foretold by Mayan hieroglyphs.
However, academics have ridiculed the idea and say the date simply marks the end of the old Mayan calendar and the beginning of a new one.
The Central American region where the Mayans lived saw a tourism bonanza in the run-up to the fateful Dec. 21 date, with tourists snapping up all-inclusive excursions to Mayan holy sites.
It was also a chance to celebrate the contributions of the Mayan civilization to mankind, but indigenous groups have accused governments and businesses of profiting from Hollywood-inspired fiction about their culture.
Thousands gathered at the majestic Mayan ruins of Tikal in the jungles of present-day Guatemala to await a fiery climax to the ancient civilization’s calendar.
Actors in costumes and head-dresses staged elaborate dances to a mournful pan-pipe tune ahead of the apocalypse supposedly foreseen by the Mayans, who reached their peak of power in modern-day Mexico and parts of Central America between the years 250 and 900.
Australia was one of the first countries to see the sun rise on Dec. 21, and Tourism Australia’s Facebook page was bombarded with posts asking if anyone had survived Down Under.
“Yes, we’re alive,” the organization responded to fretting users.
US space agency NASA was also contacted by thousands of worried people asking what to do. In a Web page devoted to debunking the prophecies, it reassured them that the world will not end this year.
“Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than four billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012,” it said.