“Should we evacuate?” Town alarm wakes us up in Arequipa, Peru

Arequipa, Peru
Arequipa, Peru

As I was suffering from the flu mixed with altitude sickness, while my roommate was suffering from altitude sickness mixed with what would later be revealed as a lung infection, we both decided to spend our quiet afternoon in Arequipa, Peru, resting up.

We’d spent the morning with our tour group exploring some local sights of Arequipa after arriving on an early flight from Lima that morning, and decided it would be best for our bodies to lay down for a nap.

We’d barely been laid down for 15 minutes when all of a sudden:

“Wwweeeeerrrrrrrrooooooooo wwwwweeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrooooooooooo!”

“What is that?” I said.

Nicole, my roommate, looked at me with just as much of a blank look as I was wearing.

A siren was ringing out across the town.

This was no small-time siren: It had to be a town alarm, for some sort of emergency.

We ran to the hotel room door and stood on the balcony, searching for answers – why was this alarm going off, where was it coming from, and what should we be doing?

However, we couldn’t see any sign of an emergency, we couldn’t tell exactly from where the horrid sound was coming from, and we couldn’t see anyone around – let alone anyone running around screaming.

Earlier that day at the Santa Catalina Monastery
Earlier that day at the Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa

We made the executive decision to climb the vantage point tower on top of our hotel, to see what we could see from there.


We saw no one running, saw no nearby volcanos erupting, no tsunamis, felt no earthquakes.

And yet the siren continued.

We were half-panicked, half-amused: Were we unknowingly about to die? Was this a test alarm? A regular occurance – just a “hey everyone, wake up now” mid-afternoon alarm?

I’m sorry to say, but we never got any answers.

The alarm stopped after about 20 minutes, and when we found our tour manager later she said she had no idea what it was either.

So we’ll never know what was happening, or what could have happened that afternoon in Arequipa – but it sure made one hell of a story.

Giving my first ever "confession" at Santa Catalina Monastery. I had lots to confess...
Giving my first ever “confession” at Santa Catalina Monastery. I had lots to confess…
Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa
Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa

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