When I first pictured cloud forest, I figured it might look like a forest with clouds, like in BC? The reserve you work and live at looks more like this: http://imgur.com/vSyQEk8 The diversity of life in the hills at the equator is something you must experience to appreciate. The perfect weather was a nice bonus, and most days settle at a comfy, but not too hot temperature (in the low 20s Celsius). Also, expect daily storms during the rainy season, some very exciting! Ecuador is beautiful: in its landscapes, people and culture. The cities are worth seeing, but can very dangerous for tourists lacking the proper precautions. I was luckily never robbed, but it was common story among people I ran into. Protect your valuables! Also, use the recommended hostel while staying in Quito: very cool and safe. Still, being out in the country is much safer, and it's where you will spend most of your time.
From the city, La Hesperia is about a 3 hour bus ride across amazing Andean countryside, and a 1 hour hike up from the road. You're far from civilization, but the cell reception is still not too bad! The reserve is altogether a protected area, a (mostly) self-sustaining farm, a local school, and a great learning experience for aspiring international conservationists like you or I! The volunteer house was very comfortable and open, with views of pure nature that I still miss. After a hard working day and a cold refreshing shower, you will be overwhelmed by the sounds of the forest at night that leads to some intense and vivid dreaming. The daytime work was varied and sometimes challenging. My tasks over the course of a month ranged from tree planting to trail maintenance and basic farm work including planting/harvesting crops (such as bananas, oranges, sugar cane, yucca, chocolate, coffee, etc.), weeding, and working with animals. Regardless of the job, a machete is the only tool you need! Also, at one point you have to take the daily milk down the mountain with the most stubborn donkey ever. There is electricity, but you hand wash your own clothes. Also, safe drinking water and meals are prepared by the staff (luxury!) Expect staples and fresh food that couldn't be any more local.
That's what volunteering and living is like, but of course there's plenty of time for fun and meeting people. The reserve itself is full of things to do including Spanish lessons, soccer games, hiking, horseback riding, swimming, and a communal chill area of the volunteer house with books, a guitar, games, etc. Still, weekends are better spent exploring more of the country. There's lots to see, and you can get recommendations from other volunteers and locals. Me and a buddy I met on our first day spent one weekend biking down volcanoes through Inca ruins and indigenous villages, one living it up in an awesome adventure/party town called Banos, one taking in the history of Quito, and I made an excursion to the Galapagos for my final leg. All were great experiences that I still tell stories about. Produced some breathtaking pictures too!
I couldn't recommend this volunteer experience more, even if Ecuador is not near the top of your list. It's simply a better way to travel while contributing a little back to this amazing country you're visiting. The work is satisfying and makes you feel like a part of the community rather than just a tourist. Plus, you can still have as much fun as you want. Meeting people comes naturally, and a trip like this is a great way to take a person out of their comfort zone in front of a screen or whatever, at least for enough time to appreciate what you have at home, and perhaps what's missing. You may not "discover yourself", but I can guarantee you will grow from it.