Category Archives: Travel

Narmada Pilgrimage 2020

Yoga, Ayurveda, Vedic Astrology have been called the three sisters of self knowledge.

Join us February 1 – 23, 2020 for a rustic “old India” pilgrimage thru the sacred Narmada river valley while learning Ayurveda, Vedic Astrology, Yoga, philosophy and much more. This trip is designed for those who have already established a path in yoga or a love for India and what to go deeper into the country and the culture.

We will begin this pilgrimage at the Mahakaleshwar & Kal Bhairava temples in Ujjain, about half way between New Delhi and Mumbai. These are two of the most significant tantric temples in India. From here we will go to Maheshwar to rendezvous with our pilgrimage guides from the ashram and begin the four day walk to the ashram in Omkareshwar.

We will spend a week in a simple ashtam practicing yoga while learning Ayurveda, Jyotisha, Indian cuisine and enjoying the nature, and the ancient pilgrimage traditions that take place on this small river island. This ashram is owned and beautifully maintained by 26 year old Mangala and her mother who took in three orphan girls after Mangala’s own Guruji father passed away. One will find that the women of Narmada are given a somewhat special place in society compared to much of India.

Maheshwar, where we will begin walking to Omkareshwar is famous all over India for Queen Ahilyabhai, who has left a legacy of special services for widows, and community weaving trusts that have strengthened communities thru the empowerment of women. And this area seems to attract many female pilgrims.

From Omkareshwar we will make our way by jeep through numerous significant sights along the river until we get to Amarkantak, the source of Narmada and two other rivers; a village within a forest reserve famous for numerous rare ayurvedic forest herbs and herbalists. We will again spend a week learning about the forest and natural medicine, vedic astrology and yoga.

After a short stop in Jabalpur see Narmada channeled thru marble canyons and visit a special nakshatra garden we will make our way to Varanasi for 3 nights of classical music concert, Drupad Mela; the spectacular Shiva Rathri Festival, and the Kal Bharava temple where we will complete our pilgrimage. The first Bhairava temple in Ujjan is related to Shiva chopping the head off Ganesha and this second one in Varanasi represents the time Shiva chopped off one of Brahma’s heads. These two stories will weave their way thru many parts of our spiritual journey.


The focus of this pilgrimage will be both to offer participants the traditional tools of self discovery: by the end of this three weeks we will develop a great appreciation for traditional Indian culture and the threads which run thru the food, the humans, the forests, the stars and the movement of the planets. The great threads which weave together this tapestry of life.

By the end of the pilgrimage will have a solid base of understanding of Ayurvedic life style and cuisine as well as an introduction to Ayurvedic medicine and the forest medicines of India. We will have acquired a basic understanding of Vedic Astrology, especially as it relates to Ayurveda. We will have also learned an outline of the Shivananda Hatha yoga sequence including meditation, pranayama, sun salutations & 12 basic postures; a sequence which can be easily adapted for all abilities.

This Pilgrimage will not be for everyone, it will be rustic living in old India where they are not accustomed to accommodating western demands for comfort. The ayurvedic classes, the astrology classes will take us deep into a new way of looking at the world and ourselves. Although much of the teaching will be foundational levels, taken together this pilgrimage will open the doors to advanced study as well as a special opportunity for those who have already studied yoga and the traditional Indian sciences to connect with the source of that knowledge thru Shaivism, the purity of Narmada and the meditative intensity of Ganga.


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Mike Holliday will be your guide and contact for this pilgrimage as well as teaching Vedic Astrology & Hatha Yoga. In 2007 Mike traveled to India and dedicated himself to yoga and self realization. His life since then has been pilgrimage and dedication to knowledge and the service of humanity by offering his unique knowledge and experience of India, her culture and her traditions. Mike has traveled extensively off the tourist trails both as solo traveler and as guide. He is travels almost continually throughout India & Canada teaching yoga, philosophy and Vedic astrology.

Brigitte Baur. Ayurveda is “the hands of mother”

Brigitte Bauer will be teaching Ayurveda lifestyle, cooking and medicine. Brigitte has been practicing and teaching Ayurveda lifestyle and medicine in Italy and Germany for over 20 years. She is Certified Ayurveda Therapist and has taken extensive studies in Ayurvedic Medicine from the Italian Ayurvedic Institute and did her mentorship under Vaidya Baghwan Dash & Lalita Kashap at the Ayurvedic Hospital in New Delhi. She has continued her studies in Rishikesh and Orissa in order to support her full time practice in this ancient art. As a mother of three she is deeply dedicated to the concept of Ayurveda as “the hand of mother.”


The cost of this trip including food, lodging, transportation, guidance and guides, trip organization, translation, training and course material is $2890 inclusive of tax.

$1000 deposit will hold your place with the full amount due by January 1, one month before travel.

Not included: flight ticket, travel visa for India, travel to Ujjain and from Varanasi, personal expenses.


This trip begins in Ujjain and ends in Varanasi. We will also visit, Maheshwar, Mandu, Omkareshwar, Jabalpur and Amarkantak in between. Most of the travel will be by Jeep, but we will board one train to take us to Varanasi.

If you have any questions you can contact Mike Holliday by email or WhatsApp.

holliday.michael@gmail.com

+12502666896

http://www.mikessleepingdog.com

Dibang & Tally Valley Treks

October 15 – 31, 2019

Two incredible treks, four unique cultures and an experience you will never forget.

This trip will rely heavily on local guides and experts to guide us thru the Himalayan jungles in one of the most untouched areas of the world.

This is for nature lovers, adventurers, wildlife photographers and others with a strong body and a stronger will who want a chance to feast their lens on a snow leopard; or perhaps be the feast.

Dibang Tourism, headed by Mrs. Tine Mena, the first woman from North East India to peak Everest, will support us with guides and porters as we follow the traditional hunting trails past the Seven Lakes which the are the namesake of this incredible trek thru Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary.

But don’t worry, before we get started on the treks we will take a few days to relax and explore the upper Brahmaputra river at Dibu-Saikowa National Park by boat with with the guys Guijan Eco-Lodge.

In Ziro we will stay with a local family and explore the 3-4 night Tally Valley trek with Apatami tribesmen. This area features the distinctive face tattoos of the Apatami as well as unique sustainable farming that combines rice fields and fish farms.

We will finish the trip back at Guwahati with a visit to the infamous Kamakhya temple; the place where Kali’s yoni is said to have fallen after she self-immolated at her father’s botched sacrifice.

Cost
The cost of this trip including food, lodging, transportation porters, security & guides within India is $2800 for 16days.

The route
North East India
Surrounding Area

Your guides for this trip:

Leadership is provided by Mike Holliday. Mike grew up on the back country trails of Canada and has been traveling India since 2007. His first trip to North East India the following year blew his mind and he knew he had to share this with people.

After over ten years of traveling around India and he started the Sleeping Dog Off Track Adventure Pilgrimage company to bring awareness to the unique cultures that represent the earliest foundation of human communities; to introduce people of the west to a simpler way of life that recognizes the interconnection between human life, the life of planet earth and the movement of stars and solar systems; and to facilite meaningful cultural exchange.

Mike’s interest in tribal cultures stems from his own aboriginal connection that runs thru his mothers line as well as from his own upbringing that kept him close to nature.

When Mike is not wandering off the map somewhere he teaches Vedic Astrology, philosophy and meditation on-line and around the world. He also provides one-on-one philosophical support for yoga instructors, holistic health practitioners, and seekers of truth and purpose.


Mrs. Tine Mena with former President of India, Smt. Pratibha Patil

DibangTourism.com is an innitiative stated in 2011 by Mrs. Tine Mena to provide access to local aboriginal guides in North East India.
The will provode guides, porters and security for 9-10 days of the Seven Lakes trek thru Dibang Wildlife Reserve.


Hagen Dolo will support us with home stay in Ziro valley as well as guides and porters for the Tally Valley Trail.

Tribal Festivals of North East India Tour

November 23 – December 5, 2019

This tour is open and suitable for everyone. This will be an excellent opportunity for photographers or anyone else interested in tribal culture and customs. We will visit four unique festivals put on by four different tribal groups which will allow us a broad overview of the traditional clothing, music, dance & food of the North East Hill Tribes.

We will begin with a trip to Cherrapunji to experience the beautiful jungle, incredible waterfalls and the living root bridges built by the kashi tribes near the border with Bangladesh.

Your guide, Mike Holliday, with a Living Root Bridge in the background.

Before catching a train to the unique Loktak lake & Keibul Lamjao National Park for nature and wildlife viewing. This is the home of the rare dancing deer called Sangai which is the namesake of the festival that we will visit next in this area.

We will make a quick stop by Dzuko valley for a short day trek on our way to Kohima where we will witness the awe inspiring Hornbill Festival of the Naga tribes.

Naga Elder

The cost of this tour, inclusive of food, transport, lodging and entrance and guiding fees $2800.

Flight to and from India is not included and you are responsible for your own travel Visa for India. Any personal expenses including photography fees, travel insurance, gifts and extras will be your own responsibility.

For more information or to book your place contact Mike Holliday at holliday.michael@gmail.com

Tribal Culture

Ten years ago I came to North East India and visited the northern Naga tribes. They had only recently opened the land to outsiders. We needed four people and a guide to get a permit. Other than a couple groups of anthropologists we were the first tourists they had ever met. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.

But the Naga’s are a warrior tribe, unaccustomed and unfriendly to foreigners who they considered a threat. The children often threw sticks and stones while yelling and waving machetes at us to scare us away.

I now find myself on the other side of the Brahmaputra river valley walking thru Apani villages of Ziro district of Arunachal Pradesh, greeted with smiles, invited into the family homes and offered drinks (rice beer, millet wine and wild kiwi wine).

I’m told that they defend themselves and their culture thru kindness and their helpful nature is respected by anyone who travels thru their valley. UNESCO has recognized their unique culture and they are famed for their sustainable agriculture practices: rice paddies double as fish farms (the fish fertilize the rice and keep the soil loose while feeding on the rice); they also plant pine and bamboo forests for building.

Both of these indigenous cultures hold the mithun (semi-wild jungle buffalo) is high esteem. Apani burial sites are marked with a mithun skull which is believed to help guide the souls of the departed to heaven.

Those who have not been converted to Christianity worship the god Danyi-Piilo who is described as the Sun and the Moon. I’m told the Catholics have some respect for these traditional beliefs and many people are following both religions without contradiction. But there are also revisionist Christians who have split families and clans by introducing this idea that those who are not following Christianity are evil. Of course this has caused some push-back against the revisionist; or rather against the idea that if you are not doing like I am doing then you’re doing it wrong.

We visited a traditional temple for Danyi-Piilo and like many traditional cultures and beliefs, the only people there were over 50 years old. In this area all the women had their chins and foreheads tattooed and large nose piercings while the men had a ‘T’ tattooed on their chins. Nobody I talked to knew the reason for these tattoos: some said to beautify, others said to make ugly so they would not be stolen by other tribes. In any case, it seems clear that this religion, the tattoos, the language and ultimately the culture will mostly disappear as the elders follow the mithun into the after life.

For this it feels like a great honour to be up here staying with these people, hearing their songs, greeting them in their own language, drinking with them, and watching them laugh at us for whatever reason. The joy and kindness of the people will hopefully be passed down to their children and grandchildren.

Tribal Tour and Trekking in North East India

Autumn 2019 there will be two similar trips to this region. Contact me for details.

March 26 – April 20, 2019

This is a backpackers dream as we go far from the well worn tourist paths of India and immerse ourselves in some of the most ancient untouched civilizations on earth. The amazing bio and cultural diversity of North East India awaits. This could very well be the life changing trip that many people are looking for; it will certainly change the way you view the world.

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The itinerary will be subject to some slight fluctuation as we travel and things come up.

This trip will start in Guwahati but we would quickly go to Shillong and spend a few days in the area trekking and getting used to the area before taking the train to Tinsukia to visit Dbru Saikowa Nation Park by boat. We will then go by bus to Roing in Arunachel Pradesh and spend a few days on various day hikes. We’ll then hire a jeep and head up into the remote town of Anini and perhaps a little further into the Himalayas to the end of the road before making our way south again.

Manjuli Island is a must see since they figure it may be gone due to erosion within the next 20 years. However, depending on time, we might skip this one in order to spend more time in Nagaland: Mon to Longwa. We will take the treacherous mountain road down thru the middle of Nagaland to the capital Kohima, taking our time to visit several spots along the way. Just a bit south of Kohima is another short trek and then another short trip to Imphal. We will return to Gawahati and have a feast before parting ways.

Some of the things which sway us from this itinerary include: Kaziranja National park, opportunities to get more involved with the local tribes, and local infrastructure. This is not a resort holiday and all participants are expected to be in good physical and mental health. Nights in Arunachel may be as low as -5C, while the days down in the Bramaputra valley may be over +35C. We will take at least one train and perhaps a few local state buses where we will literally rub shoulders with the locals. Tourist infrastructure in some places will be non-existent and sleeping conditions will often be less than ideal. Hopefully we can make up for this with some more comfortable home-stays or eco-tourist lodges occasionally. It will also be possible to skip some day activities in order to take time along or just rest. I do not expect much wifi connectivity, though phones (including data) should find a connection for most of this trip.

Explore India, Arunachal Pradesh Tourism, Along, Anini, Anjaw, Bomdila

Iincludes transportation within India, lodging, all group meals, permits, guides, and pretty much everything we will need on the trip. Maximum of 5 people for this trip. Currently accepting minimum deposit of $600 to hold your seat for this trip. I expect it to go fast.

The following are not included: Spending money, baksheesh/tips, flights, Visa for India, inoculations and other personal extras.

Highlights: There will be many, however, the root bridges around Cherrapunji and the sacred forest by Mawphalang will be among the first sights to open our eyes. This will also be our first contact with local tribals. The Bramaputra River surrounded by tea plantations as we make our way north. Majuli Island is the largest river island in the world. The ferry to get there will take about an hour. The biodiversity of Arunachel Pradesh and the opportunity to see several species of wild cat as well as a large array of birds, river dolphins, and other kinds of big game animals. We will be on the edge of snow leopard territory in Anini. The incredible cultural diversity including Khasi healers, Naga warriors, Ao merchants, Anini herdsmen and many others. The treks; unbelievable treks and the beauty of nature. Expect stunning picks from every angle.

Narmada Pilgrimage: Begins February 28, 2019

February 28 – March 19, 2019 (a similar trip is schedules for early Feb 2020)

Delhi – Agra – Orchha – Maheshwar – Varanasi – Omkareshwar – Amarkantak

India has a great culture of wandering sadhus who have cut themselves away from the mainstream society, organized religion, and material dependence. You will not find them in Rishikesh or Varanasi or any of the cities so full of corruption and noise; they will be in the peace of the forest. They will be in the cities too, but you will not easily find them.

Pilgrimage with Mike Holliday takes us thru key locations along the Narmada river valley as we meet with Sadhus, stay in Ashrams, walk with the pilgrims, while practicing yoga, leaning traditional Vedic Sciences and delving deep into the philosophy. This may also feel like an adventure pilgrimage as we get close to the locals and experience the beauty of rural India.

Trip Includes:

  • 19 nights in ashrams & guest houses around central India
  • Transportation within India
  • Extra guides when appropriate
  • Yoga instruction
  • Astrological consultations

Trip highlights

  • Meditation & Yoga at the Gayatri Ashram on Omkareshwar Island
  • Walking the forests and ancient temples Amarkantak
  • The vibrant intensity of Varanasi
  • Philosophical talks by Mike
  • Experiencing the heart of India far from the typical tourist trails

Note: This trip is partly designed as an Introduction to off the beaten path travel in India. we will travel and live simply as we look behind the myths and the masks that we mistake for reality. We will be walking extensively, living simply (meaning beds and toilets may meet western expectations) and facing cultural expectations much different than our own.

Clothing should be culturally appropriate for ashram living.

This package does not include:

  • flight to and from India
  • Additional travel within India
  • Spending money
  • Personal meals and transport
  • India Visa
  • Vaccinations

Mike Holliday has traveled and studied extensively around India as a solo traveler, adventurer, yogi, pilgrim. He began teaching in earnest in Varanasi India around 2012 at the insistence of his teacher due to students who had begun showing up. He led his first pilgrimage in 2018.

Contact: holliday.michael@gmail.com

Pilgrimage to the Heart of India 2018

(In February 2020 a trip similar to this is being arranged. Contact me for details.)

19 day pilgrimage to Varanasi, Omkareshwar, Ellora & Ajanta Caves, Maheshwar, Mandu and Indore

20 November – 8 December 2018

Dear Friends,

It’s about time I bring a group of friends to see some of my favorite pilgrimage places in India: Varanasi, Shiva city, the spiritual centre of India famous for tantra and pilgrimage; Omkareshwar and Maheshwar on the Narmada river are major centres of the 3.5 year pilgrimage that sees a steady stream of devotion. Ellora and Ajanta are both ancient monuments of devotion and wonder. We will make a stop by Mandu for a day of cycling, frivolity and wandering thru villages and Mugul ruins scattered across the country side. The final stop will be in Indore to visit a couple important tantric temples and enjoy the comforts of the city before going our separate ways.

The trip will include:

  • Land travel within India, most meals, room, guided tours, yoga & astrology
  • Traditional Hatha Yoga practice including asana, pranayama, mantra, meditation. Bhakti, Raja, Hatha, Jnana, Tantra and Kundalini yogas will all find expression over the course of this trip.
  • A detailed Vedic Astrology reading and remedy coaching.
  • Six nights in a simple, traditional forest ashram over-looking the holy Narmada river
  • Five nights in Varanasi over looking the Holy Ganges river
  • A small group of six allows for deep integration of the practices and teachings.
  • Excellent introduction to India for those who wish to continue traveling the country
  • A unique yoga pilgrimage
  • Deep introduction to yogic philosophy and Vedic way of life.
  • Suitable for anyone who is a pilgrim at heart. No prior knowledge or experience is necessary. Sincerity towards the method is the most important attribute.

Basic Itinerary

20 November – 8 December 2018

20 November 2018: Arrival in Varanasi, rest, short evening yoga and meditation next to the river.

While in Varanasi: Morning yoga, site-seeing tours, boat rides, lots of free time, meeting Shiva devotees, astrology charts will be completed for each person.

25 November: Train to Khandwa; bus to Omkareshwar, take rest and get settled at the Gayatri Forest Ashram, easy evening yoga and meditation.

While in Omkareshwar: Two yoga classes per day. Learning traditional stories, parikrama (walk) around the island, visiting important pilgrimage sites, pilgrims and sadhus. Spending time in nature, swimming, enjoying.

02 December: Jeep to Ajanta. While in Ellora/Ajanta trip we will take our yoga where we can get it. There is often an opportunity to practice among the caves.

03 December: Jeep to Ellora and then to Maheshwar, take rest, get settled in the guest house.

While in Maheshwar: One to two yoga classes per day, visiting special holy sites, boating, swimming, meeting pilgrims, singing, & enjoying nature.

07 December: Jeep to Mandu, cycling/site-seeing, and then jeep to Indore.

08 December: Visit Mahakala and Bhairava temple before departure. The tour will end on this day and departures will go from Indore.

  • Note: let us know if we can help to arrange transport and lodging before and after the trip.

By the end of this trip participants will have gained deep knowledge of Yogic, Vedic and Tantric practice and lifestyle. One will have gained an appreciation for simple, prayerful living and will have a good foundation to continue a personal sadhana (spiritual practice). You will also gain valuable travel experience and a deep humanistic education as we travel on and off the tourist trail thru the heart of India.

Anyone with a sincere desire for self knowledge thru yoga and traditional knowledge are welcome. Yoga classes are easily modified to be accessible to everyone as well as challenging for every level of fitness and concentration. Much of the philosophical content will be organic (arising from the circumstances and questions) so this too will be both accessible and challenging for most anyone.

India can be a challenging country and we will be living very simply as pilgrims ourselves for parts of trip. This simplicity of nature will hopefully counterbalance the sensory and emotional over-load that Delhi and Varanasi are known for in different ways. Travel can be slow and frustrating (most times) and there will a few arduous days of travel, lots of walking, and a group of eight people traveling and living together for 19 days (18 nights). We hope that lots of free time, optional tours and practices, and flexibility by everyone, will allow everyone to get the flavour they are seeking from life.


This package tour includes:

  1. 19 days/18 nights in various guest houses and ashrams may be shared occupancy
  2. Many meals, lots of chai and snacks
  3. Transportation
  4. Vedic Astrology consultation.
  5. Classical Hatha Yoga classes
  6. Guide fees
  7. Additional administrative fees, organization costs, booking fees, travel expenses, baksheesh & diksha donations to temples, pilgrims and ashrams in the name of the group

Total cost:

  • $1950. A $600 deposit will hold this space for you

Stipulations

  • Limited to six people. Must have at least 4 people signed up by October 1 for the trip to proceed. Full refunds will be given if it’s cancelled for this reason. I expect it will sell out fast.
  • One place will have preference for someone with knowledge in Ayurveda and/or Jyotish and would like to do a mentorship in astrology over the 19 days of this pilgrimage.
  • Unless your seat can be sold to someone else we may only be able to refund 50% of the fee in case of cancellation. There will be an administrative fee retained in any case, but we look vary favorably upon those who find someone to fill their place for them.
  • Bring a friend and save $100 each (not available for early bird pricing). Bring two or more friends and save $200 while each of them save $100.

What is not included, and why?

  • Many meals, snacks and chai throughout the day since you will be on your own.
  • Baksheesh, diksha payments, tips to temples monks, sadhus and service people which are best given by your own heart & hand
  • Flight to India, travel insurance, immunizations are all your responsibility.
  • Souvenirs, personal items, personal travel or personal entertainment.
  • No certificates will be available as this pilgrimage is meant to be a personal healing, learning & potentially transformational journey. If you want a certificate, go to Rishikesh.
  • If you are unsure about what may or may not be included, please ask before departure.

Your host and guide:

Mike Holliday has had a deep spiritual and personal connection with Varanasi, Ganga & Narmada since 2007. He has been teaching yoga around the world for almost ten years and offering philosophical/spiritual coaching and counsel for over half that time. He has guided many people thru Varanasi and well as thru Indian culture and a few have even come to experience the magic of the Narmada river with him. He is an engaging teacher and story teller; a very knowledgeable guide thru the unknown; a sincere, grounded friend and adviser & he has a strong passion for sharing traditional knowledge. He is an off the beaten path teacher who mostly follows orthodoxy but does not not believe it is necessary.

For more information:

  • holliday.michael@gmail.com