Days Passed Don't Return (video)

A short documentary about an encounter with an old man along the ancient pilgrims route of El Camino De Santiago, Spain(St. James' Way).

By Marcel Baaijens.
Duration 2:46 minutes.
Spanish with English subtitles


On the 9th September 2006 I headed for St. Jean Pied de Port, a small town in the French Pyrenees, to walk 764 km to Santiago De Compostella in western Spain. This walk is an ancient catholic pilgrimage walked by thousands for religious, spiritual and/or recreational reasons. I had 38 days to get there.

Walking that far is not quite recreation for me, neither am I a practicing catholic, but I did hope that walking ‘El Camino’ would somehow bring spiritual and transformational benefits. I had no idea what those benefits would be, if and how they would eventuate.

For the next 38 days I will publish one post each day about my experience of being on ‘El Camino’. I will attempt to convey my experience using text and images of video stills and soft pastel drawings made during the 38 days that I was on my way to the bones of Saint James.

Marcel Baaijens

1/38 Santiago Calling

One day I was explaining a to a fellow traveller that I was about to venture out into the world on a journey that I had just called ‘A Pilgrimage in Search of Self’. “Have you heard about a pilgrimage called ‘El Camino De Santiago’?” she asked. “No”, I said. “And I am not going on a religious pilgrimage”, I added hastily. The next day, just as I was about to lie in the sun and listen to some music, my minds eye began to see what seemed like a dream yet I was fully awake and aware.

Still from video: Cathedral of Santiago, Spain

I saw myself walking towards the dark silhouette of huge church with three windows lit. A sense arose that I had arrived at a very sacred destination after a very long and difficult journey, and feelings of overwhelming awe, relief, privilege, sadness and letting go. The emotions triggered actual sobbing from the depth of my being just as a nightmare can make you sweat and scream. “How strange”, I thought.

Still from video: Lourdes, France

The day after that, the ‘daydream’ was still puzzling me. I decided to check out the pilgrimage the fellow traveller mentioned. I vaguely remembered the name and searched the web. As a site opened with the image of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostella I could barely believe my eyes. The similarities between the image in my ‘daydream’ and the cathedral of Santiago were too close for comfort. The feelings I experienced during the ‘daydream’ immediately returned. I became aware of the pattern, took notice and I decided to accept the direction I received and begin my sabbatical with walking 764 km of El Camino de Santiago, The Way of St. James

Still from video: Sculpture of St.James along El Camino

I was raised in a catholic family, but I do not regard myself a catholic. If I look to a religion or philosophy for inspiration it is Buddhism rather than Christianity. Yet the more I thought about walking El Camino, the more appropriate it seemed to begin my ‘journey’ in the Pyrenees and walk to the bones of Santiago (Spanish for Saint James).

Still from video: Crypt where the bones of St. James are kept.

Saint James is one of the twelve apostles and a cousin of Jesus of Nazareth. It is said that he was buried in the north of Spain and that his bones are now resting in the crypt of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostella, Galicia, Spain. When his bones were rediscovered in medieval times it triggered a flood of pilgrims that never stopped. Albergues (inns) and hospitals for pilgrims were set up along the way to support the pilgrims.