On the way from Quito to Tena, about 60km before Tena, the bus will pass Sumaco National Park - pristine cloud forest with its peaks rising above the clouds. The bus ride will give you quite a lot of views to admire, but it's nowhere close to actually being inside the forest.
While staying at Limon Cocha hostel in Tena, we met a bird researcher Rudy who seemed to know Ecuador inside out. We got to listen to Rudy's stories and adventures in the jungle, got to try some birdwatching with Rudy's professional equipment and eventually got suggested that we can go visit biological research station in the cloud forest nearby, where Rudy used to work. Well, why not? The station is a little known, small camp inside of the cloud forest by Cosanga town and river. There are no tourists, only researchers - usually a couple of guys who study butterflies, birds and insects.
From the road the station is 5km hiking upwards on a dirt road, but we got lucky and hitched a ride in a truck. We took our food with us as suggested by Rudy, since the researchers are usually on a very basic diet there. When we arrived we were welcomed by two nature enthusiasts currently staying there. People staying there all seems to be "friends of Rudy". They, however, were genuinely surprised when we said that we're not researchers or scientists (we didn't work very hard on pretending to be smart though :) We were given a basic room and three woolen blankets - cloud forest gets incredibly cold after sunset.
The station has a kitchen, some study rooms, some bedrooms, some hangars with all sorts of forest specimens in plastic boxes, bags and even in a freezer. It's a pretty nerdy atmosphere, but it's was a cool privilege to stay at a real jungle biological research station. After dinner the guys enthusiastically took us for a night walk around the forest. After stumbling around the jungle trails for about 2 hours with our headlights helping only a little we decided to go back. On the way back we found a horse peacefully grazing and enjoying the moonlit valley. Turns out it's not a rare thing to find a horse without an owner in jungle valleys like this - these horses escaped from their owners and live by themselves in the mountains. One of such horses was brought to the station just two days before we arrived. While the guys tried to catch the horse we were enjoying the view on the valley filled with fireflies, thousands of them sparkling here and there non-stop.
Next day we got to explore the cloud forest on our own following the trails. As I mentioned there are no tourists here, only occasional researchers who walk these trails, so the forest is practically untouched and the trails get consumed by the jungle vegetation in the matter of days. Such a majestic place where things grow on each other and together turn into something else, which then allows another colony of plants to grow on them. It's mysterious and beautiful, full of some kind of ancient power. The Enchanted Forest doesn't compare. We got a bit lost and wandered around some little walked trails for about 4hrs - found rivers and streams and waterfalls, climbed up and down and over gigantic fallen trees, tried to detect some recent human presence, but it took a while until we found a way back. Quite an adventure!
This so far is the most beautiful forest we've ever seen, no other jungle forest can compare to this beautiful creation of nature in the clouds.