August 6: I was very tardy getting going this morning. It was an 11.00am start. I walked around the city a little. I had some ‘house keeping’ to attend to like checking out the address of the Brasilian Consulate and getting some more credit on my mobile phone. I caught up with a pilgrim friend while wandering the streets. It’s not hard to do but the expectation of seeing someone you know usually only lasts a couple of days. Within this time those I’ve met on the path will arrive or will have already arrived. Most pilgrims only stay in Santiago about two days.

I went to my favourite menswear store in Santiago and bought a pair of lightweight jeans. (Hands off Vincent!). I was shocked that a 32R was a little loose on me. I
knew I’d lost size, but this was really unexpected.

Fay and I had drinks in the early evening with two pilgrim friends she had walked
with: a Japanese woman who was heading back to Tokyo the next day, and a Spanish woman who lived in Sweden and was going home to Stockholm.

On the way back to the hotel aound 10.30pm pilgrims were still arriving.

August 7: We changed hotels. I’m now in a hotel next door to the one I’ve stayed in
after my last two Caminos.

I got to the cathedral around 10.45am to get a front row seat for the midday pilgrim mass. I wanted to video the incense burner in action, but it was not to be today. It’s not done every day. I didn’t quite make the front row but got close. Mass was presided over by a bishop who was assisted by three priests, and looked over by another 13 priests, some who looked quite young, and others not so young. It seems the Catholic church is still managing to attract numbers of young men to the priesthood, at least in this corner of the world. I’ll go back to the cathedral tomorrow to see if the incense burner is going to be used.

I had lunch with a young Czech woman, Anezka, I met along the way. We didn’t have a lot of contact but enough for her to see me, so she said, as a ‘father figure’. What I find interesting is how others perceive me when all I’m doing is being John Bettens: not trying to create any particular persona.

The lunch proved to be not such a good one. By late afternoon I was feeling off colour. The night brought on vomiting and diahirrea. Food poisoning can be so debilitating. I think it was the tuna on my mixed salad that was off. This sort of illness reminded me of a really bad hangover, and I haven’t had one of them for
more than eight years since I stopped drinking alcohol. While taking a walk in the afternoon I saw a man drinking a beer. I looked at the beer and thought one sip of that and I’d be sick.

This illness made me realise once again how our health is a gift. We should value every second of it while we have it and not do anything to abuse it, as is so common in our communities. I did not have a single sick day for my entire walk. It was one of the great blessings of my journey to be able to complete if sickness free.

August 8: Last night was not a good one. I awoke this mirning still feeling quite unwell. I suspect it might take a couple of days to get back to normal. Despite how I felt I still had things to do. I knew I had to give food a miss until I was feeling really hungry. I soon learned that the Brasilian Consulate did not handle visa enquiries – how odd! You might have inferred that I’m off to Brasil. Correct. I am returning to the Casa de Dom Inacio de Leyola in Abadiania where I was in late 2009 and early 2010. I’ll be there for about a month. More of those wonderfully long meditation sessions and the healing that goes with them. This, and my walk are
preparatory for the hyperthermia treatment for my prostate cancer I intend having in Germany later in the year.

I soon learned that going to Brasil via London is far quicker than leaving from Santiago where you have to go via Madrid and elsewhere. The Madrid route means an overnight stop, whereas you can get a direct flight, or almost direct flight from London and save at least twelve hours of travel time. Also, getting to London via Madrid is nearly three times more expensive than leaving via A Coruna, a large city in the north-west of Spain. So I’m off to London tomorrow on a 3.10pm flight. I’ll get either a bus or train from Santiago to A Coruna. It’s about a 35 minute trip. My
preference is the train. More relaxed. I’m over bitumen roads.

It was a steady as you go day with both activities and food. I felt much better at the end of it, but clearly not back to my usual self.

But putting essays online personal differences aside, this is a truly epic portrait of gotham, undeniable in its power, authentic in its love, and enormous in a way that only new york is