We flew from Boston on the hip new no-frills Icelandic airline, Wow Air. The flight left in the evening, losing time zones as we went, and arrived at Keflavik airport around 4:30 am local time. We picked up our rental car and drove through the flat lava fields toward Reykjavik as the first light revealed an overcast, drizzly sky.
I took a short nap after breakfast, we drove with our host to a nearby phone store to get Icelandic SIM cards for our phones, and went to the fish store. After a fine dinner we went to bed early, slept ten hours, and woke up feeling remarkably fresh.
That afternoon I took a walk in the rain through the park near our friends' house. It was Sunday, and also my birthday. When I discovered this Chartres-style labyrinth, I decided to walk it, and the meditative tracing of its paths steadied my mind and helped me place myself in this new environment.
Soon I came upon the entrance to the Reykjavik Botanical Garden. The gate was open, and I went in.
Past a bust of the garden's founder, on a tall stone plinth, was this Steinhaed, or rock garden - one of several on the grounds.
It was planted with alpine species, many completely new to me, including a number of remarkable gentians:
There was sea-holly:
And, of course, mosses: a gentle preview of the dominant type of plant we'd be seeing for the next five days on our road trip around the southern coast of Iceland. Looking back, moss-on-lava was about the only thing I was prepared for, on what turned out to be an epic journey.