As 50 exotically dressed dancers gyrated, sweated and swayed in front of us to a hypnotic, high-energy beat, the Boi Bumba show was quickly turning into sensory overload. For an hour of non-stop action the sound system was turned up to 11, and everywhere you looked there was frantic action going on – changes of colourful costumes, giant floats, manic dance moves. It was a fantastic taster of the only thing that makes this obscure Amazonian town famous – the Boi Bumba Festival.
Boi Bumba is a unique fusion of the traditions and rhythms of the indigenous Indians, of the Portuguese who colonised their country, and of the African slaves they brought over to Brazil. It all combines to produce a fairly incomprehensible, but mesmerising performance that you can't help but tap your feet and clap your hands along to – the beats were infectious. It's like the Rio Carnaval with added exoticism. But, the best thing about it, was simply that it was immense fun.
Even though all we'd done was sit there and let it wash over us, it was exhausting to watch; which meant that at the end of it, especially when we were hit by the wall of heat outside once we'd left the air-conditioning of the auditorium, we didn't feel like struggling too far around the quiet streets of Parintins.
So, we negotiated hard with a pedal cab driver to take us on a tour of the Greatest Hits of Parintins. Fortunately for him, (given the roasting temperatures – it was about 38 degrees C), Parintins doesn't have too many must see sights, so he puffed and panted his way around the market, the Cathedral, and the Bumbodromo, the home of Boi Bumba. On a quiet Saturday afternoon, the city was pretty much dead by now, so I took over the cycling for a little bit (much to his amusement); although, after about a hundred yards the sweat was dripping off me, so I gracefully let the expert take over.
The most interesting sight was the Bumbodromo itself – a stadium with seating for 35,000 crazed spectators that is Boi Bumba ground zero for 3 days in June during the Festival itself. It seemed almost impossible to believe that this languid river town could shake off its torpor and wake into life, when it hosts the biggest party in northern Brazil, but having experienced just some of the energy of the Silversea Boi Bumba show, you can believe that anything can happen once the 2,500 dancers of Festival get going.
A wonderful day that confirmed something that I already knew – the Brazilians really know how to party.